April 26, 2014

W Is for Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is the name of a popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. — webopedia

Pretty cool. And readily and cheaply available at your home, your local coffee house, the library, and Internet cafes worldwide. So, why in the name of the Wi-Fi Alliance are hotels and airports the last to get with the program?

First — Free Wi-Fi should be mandatory in all airports. Airports bleed enough money from the concessions and various taxes and fees charged that they should be able to cover the cost of installing truly accessible Wi-Fi function for their clientele.

This might not have been as critical in the past, but in these days of mobile phones, the few remaining airport public pay phones are inconveniently located and/or broken. Which means that if you land in a foreign country, you have no way to contact friends or business associates (who may be meeting you). Because even if your phone is unlocked, there is no convenient way to replace the chip immediately after landing.

Hyatt Regency, Hong Kong
Be prepared to open a vein for Wi-Fi access at
this and many other hotel chains.
If passengers had access to free Wi-Fi, not so big a problem. At least you can email or FaceTime or text your fan base without too much trouble. (And I don't mean the pseudo-Wi-Fi often experienced in some airports. You know the kind. You log on, no problem. But you try and do anything like check email or research something on the Web, and you are blocked.)

As airports are an integral part of the transportation infrastructure, states and municipalities should mandate easy access in these facilities. You may disagree in principle (blah, blah, blah, Big Brother, blah, blah), but tell me how it works for you the next time you miss meeting your pickup ride and have no way to contact them. End of story.

Best Western, Worldwide
Wi-Fi is always free at this budget chain.
And hotels. The higher the price tag on the hotel, the more likely they are to charge for in-room Wi-Fi access. And the prices are steep — like $20–$30 a day steep. Plus, they limit the number of devices guests can connect. Granted, if you have premier status, you get free Wi-Fi, but if you aren't, you are toast. Oddly, many hostels and budget chains offer free Wi-Fi (probably because they figure they would lose market share as their price-sensitive customers demand it). It isn't always brilliant, but it usually works well enough. But the chains like Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, and above truly bleed you dry on this one.

Community Hostel, Quito
Wi-Fi here is awesome — and free!
It's not as if this were a mystery to the big hotel chain boards of directors. According to a recent survey by Thistle Hotels Group, the lack of free in-room Wi-Fi remains one of the biggest complaints among hotel guests. Not breaking news, as this has remained constant in most travel surveys for the last several years.

This public relations problem is not going to go away. In fact, as people add more and more electronic devices to their travel necessities, it only will get worse. Additionally, Generation X and the Millennials believe good Internet connections are their divine right. Hotels need to get with the program or risk losing market share as these are the travelers already in or entering into their peak earning years.

End of rant.

1 comment:

  1. I so completely agree! Never could understand why a Days Inn and Super 8 offered free WiFi but the expensive hotels want you to pay for it, and pay through the nose!