HOTEL WiFi …. What’s Up?

 

Apple-iPad-with-WiFi

Okay, I have a request.  It’s audience participation time.  Will everyone who loves to pay for WiFi  at a hotel, please raise your hand.   Gosh – I don’t see many raised hands out there!  Okay – let’s try this.  Will everyone who thinks hotel charges for WiFi are reasonable raise your hand.  Hmmmm ………. same result.   And that, of course, is my point. Let’s face it – no one likes to pay for WiFi anywhere.  And that is especially true for hotel WiFi.

So why do hotels persist in charging for WiFi?  I’ll give you a bit of information – then  you be the judge.

Travelers today are increasingly digital and want to stay connected. Smart phones, lap tops, tablets – you name it and  travelers are taking it with them. We want to stay connected – we connect to communicate with friends, find a good restaurant, purchase tickets, or select the best route to a destination. So lots and lots of travelers want WiFi.

Now let’s start with the obvious.  There are, indeed, some establishments which provide hotel WiFi without charge. Still,on average, hotels are reported to charge  $13.95 a day for WiFi.  Granted, it does cost the hotel something to provide WiFi service to it’s guests.   But,  have you ever wondered just what that cost is?  That type of information is very hard to come by.  For some reason hotels just don’t seem in the mood to share.  But I did find a bit of info on the subject.  I consider the source to be fairly reliable.  But if hotels would like to contact me and give me their direct costs – my email address is right here on the site.  I’d love to hear from you.

Several internet service providers and “some candid hotel executives” have reportedly indicated that the cost for a 250 room hotel to provide WiFi service is between $2.50 and $4.50 per room, per month. Now I’m no math whiz so check my work here.  It’s really “back of the napkin stuff.”  Working with those average figures and using the high end cost of $4.50 – let’s see – $13.95 per day charge to patron times 30 days equals $418.50 per month income from WiFi per room.  Now of course from that you must deduct the cost  to provide the service  ……  let’s see, that’s …..$4.50.  So the potential monthly PROFIT per room from WiFi is $414.00 or more! Now no hotel books it’s rooms full 100% so there are going to be some nights  a room is empty and they can’t charge the $13.95.  Also – some travelers may decide against paying $13.95 per night for hotel WiFi service (go figure?)  Still – for a 250 room hotel the potential monthly profit from hotel WiFi is $103,500.  That’s $1,242,000 potential profit per year.  So let’s be conservative and say that the hotel only books it’s rooms 50% of the nights available. And then let’s stay conservative and say that only half of those nightly customers purchase WiFi service.  If my math is correct that is still a tidy profit of $310,500 for the hotel per year from hotel WiFi.

There are a couple of other interesting dynamics at work here also.  In general, it appears that more exclusive or expensive hotels are much more likely to make some type of charge for Wifi, while lower cost or economy hotels are less likely to charge. What’s this about? Well,  possibly budget conscious travelers are perhaps inclined to be more aware of, and sensitive to, charges which they consider questionable or unreasonable? Perhaps hotels servicing these budget aware travelers realize that free WiFi can be a positive inducement for travelers to stay with them?  On the other hand, perhaps travelers who stay at the more exclusive hotels are not so concerned with the details and itemized costs?  Who knows.

Apparently location also matters in the Fee for WiFi vs Complimentary WiFi  game.  Now this is just my personal observation of course. But my impression is that hotels in larger cities are more inclined to make big charges for WiFi than hotels in smaller cities.  And further, it seems that hotels located in the Midwest are less likely to charge for WiFi than their counterparts on the east coast or west coast.wifi image

The bottom line here is that it costs a hotel relatively little to provide WiFi service to it’s guests.  The per day cost of WiFi to a hotel is so low that it falls into the range shared by other hotel expenses such as electricity and water and a tiny bar of soap.  I don’t think many hotels charge extra for items in that range. Do they?

So – why do hotels charge for WiFi?  You do the math – you be the judge.

For me, I have to be honest and say I’m not paying extra for hotel WiFi. The cost makes no sense to me and I refuse to support the unreasonable fee structure. Attempting to charge me so much for such a low cost service is an insult.  I still stay connected when I travel. How? I might select my hotel according to availability of free WiFi.  Or, if for some reason my hotel of choice charges for WiFi I ask if that charge can be removed.  If not, I just decline their expensive option. Some hotels provide free in room “wired” internet but charge for WiFi.  In those hotels I use my great little Trendnet device (check it out) and establish my own WiFi environment (see related article). Otherwise I use my smartphone or tablet to establish a “hot spot”, or maybe I  visit a local coffee shop or other location (the hotel lobby?) which provides free WiFi.  There are lots of solutions – perhaps slightly less convenient – but there is a principle involved here.

Late Breaking Addendum:  Shortly before this article was finalized and published I ran across two very current articles related to hotel fees. One raises the general question of all those extra add on fees at hotels (see article). The other, appearing  in the Sydney Morning Herald, addresses WiFi fees specifically.  They report that hotels in Sydney and Melbourne charge up to $29 per night for in room wifi. Apparently concerned about  the negative impact this might have on tourism,  “Tourism Australia”, described as “Australia’s Peak Tourism Marketing Body”, is appealing to hotels in Australia to provide free wi-fi and to “end exorbitant in-room internet bills.” To read the details go to Sydney Morning Herald.

My two suggestions – for what they are worth.

  1. Hotels – get reasonable and remove all those extra charges for WiFi service.
  2. Travelers – simply avoid staying at establishments which make extra, often exorbitant, charges for WiFi.

I’d love to hear about your experiences and thoughts related to hotel WiFi.

Stay connected but avoid fees ……..Enjoy The Adventure!

Dr.B, The Photo Trekker

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