Fortune: Why are hotels still charging for WiFi?

Fortune magazine posted an article earlier this week that directly tackles a huge pet peeve of mine concerning hotels: why, in 2015, are they still charging for WiFi? I have long asked this question in an era where WiFi is becoming an integral part of everyone's daily life and not merely the province of business people. Free WiFi is available in Starbucks, McDonald's, and many retail stores. For a hotel to charge for this fundamental amenity would be like getting a separate line item on the bill for water or towels. 

Fortunately, this is beginning to change, especially if you are a member of the hotels' loyalty programs and book directly through their app, website or corporate travel partners. Some might complain that they won't be able to take advantage of free WiFi if they are booking through an online travel site like Orbitz or Booking.com, but I can see the hotels' stance on this as a representative of Mandarin Oriental told the magazine:

Guests who create profiles get free access because ‘[e]stablishing a direct relationship is of tremendous value to us.’
— "Why are these luxury hotels still charging for Wi-Fi?" - Fortune Magazine

As we move into the era of Big Data and analytics, direct access to customer data becomes ever more valuable to companies. Furthermore, there are savings to the hotel by not having to compensate third party booking companies. For this, I think the hotels are being perfectly reasonable as they roll out free WiFi. While we may not consider it a perk,  So long as people are willing to trade either data or money for it, it's hard to argue that hotels should not take advantage of that opportunity. That, of course, also gives a strategic opening to competitors who may wish to provide completely free WiFi with no strings attached.

For me personally, I book directly with the major chains with which I have  a loyalty account so I am pleased with this new trend. I have one reservation at a Hilton this summer which occurs before the new free WiFi to all Hilton HHonors members goes into effect. Aside from that, for the rest of my planned stays with large chains, I will have free WiFi. For the handful of nights outside of these chains, I checked when making my reservation if WiFi was free and planned accordingly.

Posted on May 6, 2015 and filed under Hotels.