If the best things in life are free, the best hotels, according to a new survey, are those with the best-connected guests (who don’t pay a fee for their connections).
The Hotel Wi-Fi Test website (yes, it exists; click here to learn more) recently performed its survey of numerous hotel chains, and reported that hotels can be judged by the access they allow.
According to the site, two characteristics of hotel wi-fi are considered in ratings:
the quality of the WiFi, and
whether in-room WiFi is free.
Travel Weekly summarized the information: Marriott and Westin provided the best and second-best wi-fi quality at U.S. hotels, respectively. Hyatt came in third, and was given kudos for providing free wi-fi chain-wide (only 17% of Marriott’s U.S. properties do the same). Sheraton came in at No. 4.
But before awarding Marriott credit in the contest, it is essential to remember the hotel chain was recently embroiled in a fight with the FCC over access to its Internet. It was a fight that Marriott lost and ultimately slunk away from – whether the chain learned anything from the experience remains to be seen.
On the flipside, Hampton Inn was judged to have the worst wi-fi quality among U.S. hotels, followed by Extended Stay America. Free wi-fi is standard at both brands.
Overseas, Nordic Choice Hotels (formerly Choice Hotels Scandinavia) was judged to have the best quality Wifi among hotel chains, followed by Radisson Blu (only four of the Carlson chain’s more than 250 hotels are in the U.S.).
Wi-fi quality was judged by what percentage of properties had enough download speed to meet Netflix’s recommended speed for standard-quality video streaming.
Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to charge for wi-fi is up to the individual property – sometimes the chain, sometimes the management of that particular facility. Free services might range from free wi-fi to all anywhere in the hotel, free wi-fi to registered guests and users only, or free wi-fi to those in guest rooms. Some hotel chains also offer free wi-fi in meeting or convention space, while others charge for that access. In addition, charged fees for wi-fi may be as specific and costly as per-guest, per device, per room.
Increasingly, corporate meeting planners and sports event planners are making wi-fi access a priority when negotiating deals for their clients. Because spectators (often unregistered guests in facilities) are demanding access, wireless internet becomes a priority in the planning process. And that extends beyond the hotel.
In a recent article on Sports Destination Management’s website, Boingo Wireless exec Doug Lodder noted, “Today, forward thinking stadiums, leagues and teams understand that the heart of today’s fan experience is a connected one. The connected fan can text, tweet and upload photos – but they can do a lot more than that too. A truly connected fan can order food and beverages from the comfort of their seat, watch instant replays on their device, download an app for the venue or team and order merchandise without waiting in line.”
Used properly, wi-fi can become not just the means for communications, but the strategy for marketing a facility, whether it is a hotel ballroom, a convention center or a sports arena.