Hotels: Don’t Charge Us For Internet Use

I stayed at the Hilton hotel in San Diego this weekend, and overall a great experience. However there was a 10 dollar charge for internet for 24 hours usage at the property, and since I wasn’t on business, I wouldn’t be able to expense it.     

Charging guests for internet access is like charging for water or the lights, and hotels that charge are missing a few business opportunities.   Like what? Here’s a few suggestions, and then I’ll open it up to commenters to share their ideas:

  1. Providing free WiFi (like coffee shops have figured out) means I’m more likely to stay on property and spend more time and money on your hotel. It means I’m more likely to have business meetings in your restaurant or lounge and invite others to come and do business.  We have expense reports and are likely to buy food and drink.  We’ll access our web enabled devices at the pool, in the lounge, keeping our kids busy, and keeping us connected.
  2. Savvy hotels will create or foster location based social networks, that will encourage guests to rate and rank which restaurants, attractions, and self-support each other.  As we rate and rank nearby attractions in the context of being a guest at your hotel, that centralizes our experiences with your brand –we’ll tell our network about the great we had our experience in and around as guests at your property.
  3. Develop a virtual concierge that will be a helpful guide to your guests, consider using twitter like the four seasons does, they even do this for their Palo Alto hotel, near my house.  You can provide us a better experience if we’re connected to each other –and to you.
  4. Maybe we’ll spend more times learning from your leadership teams, like Bill Marriot’s blog.  Hotels put a lot of marketing and service products in our hotel rooms like menus, spa treatments and concierge treatments, allow us to see these things online, not just in paper, giving us more opportunity to buy more.  

I’m not picking on Hilton alone,  as I’m told it varies on property per property basis, and there are many other hotels that charge for internet, but as a general rule of thumb, provide a better experience to guests so you can connect with other –and you.   When I travel on personal trips, I’m going to consider free internet access as a major factor to my decision on where to stay.

Update: Here’s a handy guide of which hotels charge who have internet access and how much they charge.  About 22 of the 44 hotel chains charge for internet, and some don’t even offer it (motel 6).  Many of you expressed agreement with my post (and a ton more in Twitter) so I hope this helps in your decision making.