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Free WiFi is fast becoming less of a benefit and more of a given for hotel guests around the world. Whereas even a year ago many of the major chains charged everyone but elites for using WiFi while smaller hotels enticed business travelers with the promise of free internet access, the larger hotel brands finally seem to have realized that guests expect free internet access during their stays.
In the latest news on this front, Hyatt publicly announced today that, starting in February 2015, all guests at its hotels worldwide would have free WiFi access in the public areas and guest rooms.
Per the announcement:
“Free Wi-Fi will become available to Hyatt guests around the world in February 2015. Travelers will be able to access free Wi-Fi on an unlimited number of mobile devices or laptops in Hyatt-branded hotel guest rooms and social spaces.”
Until recently, some of Hyatt’s brands including Hyatt Place and Andaz did offer free WiFi, while some of the other brands only offered it to Platinum and Diamond elites. Once the new access rules go into place, though, these elites will receive a complimentary upgrade to premium (higher-speed) WiFi service.
This is the latest in a series of recent announcements by the major chains, the latest of which came from Starwood Preferred Guest last week that SPG members who book their stays either through SPG.com, directly through a hotel website or using the SPG app would receive complimentary internet access during their stay. This was a change from offering it just to Platinum members automatically, and as an option to Gold elites.
Likewise, Marriott announced in November that it would offer free in-room WiFi to all Marriott Rewards members who booked directly through Marriott booking channels, while Gold and Platinum elites would continue to receive free enhanced WiFi where available.
IHG led the pack of major programs to offer free WiFi, first to all elites in 2013, then to all IHG Rewards members starting in 2014, though Club Carlson has long offered all members free internet at all of its 1,000+ properties.
What is unique about Hyatt’s announcement is that all guests, regardless of how they book their stay, their elite status, or whether they are Gold Passport members, get free WiFi during their stay. In that respect, it is possibly the most generous of the programs now offering free WiFi.
At the other end of the spectrum is Hilton, which offers free WiFi at some brands like Hampton Inn, but only gives Gold and Diamond members free complimentary internet access at others including Hilton, Doubletree, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria. Hopefully they are taking a long, hard look at their amenity offerings and considering following the lead of these other programs.
While I don’t think it is a burden to require guests to be loyalty program members to access free WiFi, offering it as a standard amenity to all guests is a great step in the right direction. Maybe this will make some of the other chains reevaluate their current policies and revise them further so that guests do not have to jump through hoops booking rooms in order to receive free internet access.
The reality is, hotel guests today expect (and rightfully so) to remain connected during their stays. It’s also good for the hotels, who can benefit from guests posting photos, tagging locations and updating statuses and more through their social media channels during their stays. As the world becomes more connected, so too must hotels. Hopefully we are approaching the day when paid internet access at hotels is a thing of the past and free WiFi is a standard amenity.
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