Why are we STILL charging guests for Wifi?

Do your hotels charge their guests for WiFi?  If the answer to this question is “yes,” then the most obvious next question is “why?”  If the answer is “because I always have,” you already recognize the fact that it’s probably time to reconsider this strategy.

In today’s hospitality universe, the question of whether or not a hotel charges for WiFi is not nearly as simple as it once was (or should be).  The good news is that many more of us are now providing some level of WiFi to our guests on a complimentary basis.  The less-than-good-news is that there are still too many of us, often at the higher quality and price levels, who continue to charge for even basic WiFi connectivity.

No customer will ever accept a hotel’s attempt to justify charging for basic WiFi services.  The challenge to us as owners and operators of hotels is to find a way to replace the revenues that we’ve enjoyed from this source for so many years.  We have to cease WiFi charges immediately, even if our plan to replace this revenue stream may take some time to implement and succeed.

Why the immediacy?  All of us spend a great deal of time and effort to make sure that our hotels & resorts provide experiences for our guests that include, among other things, value.  Charging our guests for WiFi is completely contrary to the notion of providing value for price paid.  WiFi services are available for free in establishments that range from coffee shops and gyms to “select service” hotels.  Despite this, the prime hospitality culprits here are “full service” and even “luxury” category hotels.  It’s completely counterintuitive for a guest to pay nothing for WiFi in a less expensive hotel while paying $15 or more in a significantly more upscale property. Where is the sense in this?!

Today, one can easily find articles related to the increasing efforts of our major hotel brands to market and sell themselves “directly” to the customer; that is, in the interest of providing a branded level of service and, more importantly, a reduced cost-per-transaction, we are working hard to entice guests to bypass OTA’s and other third parties to bring their business directly to us.  We are doing this because we want to reduce our costs (of course) and because we want the guest to have a better experience and receive greater value by dealing with us directly.  All of this makes sense, until we include the fundamental hypocrisy of charging for internet in our value equation.

Here’s the point: we would all agree that providing value to our customers is one of the most important things that we can do.  Guests who perceive such value in our establishments are far more likely to return and/or at least to share positive feedback with their friends & colleagues.  To this end, we take specific steps to try to improve our value equation.  A glaring inconsistency in this approach is our insistence on charging for internet access when we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that such a cost drives our guests insane.  CNN and others have documented this fact for years, yet our ultimate focus on revenue and profit has blinded us to one of the top sources of guest dissatisfaction.

It’s time to stop the madness.  While it cannot be denied that these internet charges are a significant source of revenue for many of us, actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to providing value to our guests.  We’ve taken baby steps in the form of tying free internet to loyalty program membership; let’s take the giant step and eliminate these offensive charges altogether.