Free hotel Wi-Fi: Making the connection

July 21, 2015 Mark Dauner

Hyatt Hotels announced that it will offer complimentary WiFi to all customers at all Hyatt locations worldwide beginning in February, 2015. WiFi service will be accessible both in hotel lobbies and guest rooms.It seems that you can get a Wi-Fi signal just about anywhere these days. Coffee shops, fast food restaurants, bars and even many city parks are offering free Wi-Fi. You can often get free Wi-Fi in airports as well. Many broadband providers are using the home internet devices they lease to create Wi-Fi networks that their customers can tap into wherever they’re at. Even some municipalities have begun offering city-wide Wi-Fi networks.

With all of these options available, the number one place that business travelers need to connect most remains at their hotel. This is their home away from home. It’s where they’re preparing for their big meeting or are finishing up a presentation. More likely, they’re watching something on Netflix or listening to Spotify to unwind after a busy travel day. Either way – it’s the place where getting that connection seems most important. It’s also tends to be the place that offers the most inconsistency in terms of both price and quality.

The New York Times recently reported that free Wi-Fi at hotels has gone from a “nice to have” amenity to a “must have” amenity for travelers in an increasing number of instances.

Wi-Fi pricing structures still remain inconsistent across chains and across individual properties. As we reported to you late last year, some of the larger hotel chains have begun offering free Wi-Fi to their loyalty program customers only – with some only offering it to those who book directly via their website. Others have changed their policies to offer Free Wi-Fi for everyone – with a faster, higher quality service tier available to their elite loyalty program members.

Speed and quality is also a major consideration. A search of HotelWiFiTest.com revealed that, of over 200 New York City hotels tested by travelers, connection speeds for free Wi-Fi varied from as low as .31 Mbps to well over 70 Mbps. Speeds can even vary greatly within the same hotel due to many factors including the number of guests connected to the network, the proximity to access points to your room, the thickness and consistency of the walls, etc. Many larger suppliers are working towards building consistency across their brands in terms of speed and connection quality, but there is still work to be done.

As more and more travelers come to expect free Wi-Fi at hotels and the competition increases for this amenity, you can expect your options to continue to improve. What can you do now? You can look for other sources, as described above, that may offer better service in certain areas. Be mindful of the legitimacy of that hotspot you’re connecting to in order to stay secure. Look for a primer on staying safe when using Wi-Fi in the near future. You could use your smartphone or mobile hotspot to provide you with service. Just keep your data usage in mind when doing this. It might be ok to check email or send a file but you wouldn’t want to stream a movie via your mobile data plan.

As our Partner Solutions Group recommended last November, negotiating free Wi-Fi at your preferred hotels on a property-by-property basis is a good way to ensure that this “traveler must have” is included in your rate. In addition, reconsidering preferred suppliers in favor of those with more business traveler-friendly Wi-Fi offerings can be a good way to impact supplier behavior.

How do you connect? Do you have some tips for making sure you get a great connection while on the road? We’d love to hear about them. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @TandTNews.

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