TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hotel WiFi Rankings

One of my biggest travel peeves is that the budget hotels I typically use on personal travel (e.g., Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Residence Inn) provide free WiFi access, while pricier hotels I am forced to use on business travel charge for WiFi -- a recent egregious example is the Omaha Hilton ($14.95 per day).    HotelChatter has published its Annual WiFi Report 2010:
Best Hotel WiFi:
  1. Andaz Hotels (Hyatt Hotels)
  2. Standard Hotels
  3. Peninsula Hotel
  4. Holiday Inn
  5. The Little Guys (Ace Hotels (New York, Seattle, Portland, Palm Springs); Gansevoort Hotels (New York, Turks, Caicos); AKA Hotels (New York, Philadelphia); Desires Hotels (New York, Miami, San Juan, St. Louis, Milwaukee); Luxe Hotels (Beverly Hills, Los Angeles), Personality Hotels (San Francisco), BD Hotels (New York -- The Bowery, The Maritime, The Jane, The Greenwich Hotel)
Worst Hotel Wifi:
    1. W Hotels
    2. DoubleTree Hotels
    3. Four Seasons Hotels
    4. Marriott (JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Ritz-Carlton)
    5. Mandarin Oriental Hotels

2010_HotelChatter_WiFi_Survey

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Comments

This is incredibly annoying. And at least once, when I chose a hotel based on amenities listed, a hotel offered "wifi" on their list alongside their free breakfast and smoke detectors, and the wifi was for pay.

I don't use the internet for more than 30 minutes. I'm not going to pay more than I did for my dinner on 30 minutes of email time. Luckily, I have 3G like many internet needy people, but surely this is costing nice hotels business.

I just want a clean room with some basics, near downtown. Maybe a nice bar or lobby available (never been a problem). I consider wifi to be very easy to implement, and a basic. I certainly would prefer to have a meeting in the lobby with wifi available.

Posted by: Tipper Gore Romney | May 7, 2010 7:20:53 AM


The obvious reason: The hotels we frequent on business know that companies will reimburse travelers for WiFi expenses, so they charge what the market will bear.

Posted by: David | May 7, 2010 7:44:30 AM

I just stayed at the St. James Hotel in central London nearby the Old Bailey and St. Pauls, which is also a financial district. The Wi-Fi in my room or anywhere else in the hotel was free and operated without a hitch at high speed. This was one of the SLH, Small Luxury Hotels, group, and I don't know if any of the others have the same policy (free) or qualiy or ease of connectivity, but I certainly would add the St. James Hotel to the list of good ones for Wi-Fi. Incidentally it's a beautiful hotel with top notch service and superior comfort.

Jack Lifton
Very frequent international traveler

Posted by: Jack Lifton | May 7, 2010 7:49:24 AM

Talk about news you can use....

Posted by: Robineus | May 7, 2010 7:51:12 AM

Airport WiFi best and worst.

Best - Regional SouthWest (RSW) Fort Myers -- free, fast and easy

Worst is a Tie - San Francisco International (SFO) and Atlanta Hartsfield-what'shisname (ATL) -- slow, expensive and a real hassle. In fact, at SFO the stupid delta club has WiFi but it is OUTSIDE the security screen - idiots.

Posted by: EconRon | May 7, 2010 7:57:25 AM

Rule of thumb: hotel internet service is inversely proportional to the price of the room.

Posted by: Claude Hopper | May 7, 2010 8:01:00 AM

I think this is an example of Milton Freidman's adage that people are more frugal with their own money than with other people's money. The majority of guests in budget hotels are paying their own expenses and thus are more likely to choose places that offer freebies like WiFi and a breakfast bar. People on business trips can usually charge their expenses to others, so the hotel doesn't have to offer free amenities.

When I choose a business hotel, it's usually on the basis of convenience: it's closest to the location of my meeting. Yes it would be nice of me to save my clients the $14.95 fee for WiFi, but I have no real incentive to do that.

Posted by: John S. | May 7, 2010 8:01:22 AM

The more you pay for a room the less free services you receive.

Posted by: Roux | May 7, 2010 8:04:01 AM

I stay at Choice hotels, mostly Comfort Suites - never had to pay for wifi.

Posted by: stuart | May 7, 2010 8:15:15 AM

In my experience, none of the big strip hotel/casinos in Vegas have wifi at all unless things have changed in recent years. Ticked me off no end when we were visiting yearly (which we haven't done since 2005). I find lack of excellent wifi to be unacceptable and have told several big chains and casinos they will not be getting my business unless and until they fix this. Then again I'm now unemployed and our trips are few and cheap. The cheapest motels have great, free wifi. :-)

Posted by: Peg C. | May 7, 2010 8:18:07 AM

I won't stay in a hotel which doesn't offer free wi-fi access. And if there's no option, I just don't use it, but go somewhere else to check email etc.

Posted by: Kim du Toit | May 7, 2010 8:19:29 AM

This is my main bitch about so-called "Luxury" hotels. Almost invariably, when you pay a significant amount for a hotel room ($150+ per night), you get almost nothing for the money. Instead, you get nickel-and-dimed from start to end, paying a premium for shuttle service, valet, self-parking, porter, wi-fi, hotel dining, gym, mini-bar, etc and ad naseum. Moreover, it's not like you get an exceptional experience otherwise. Sometimes the service is good, sometimes not. Sometimes the bed is comfy, other times not. Sometimes the decor is fantastic, sometimes not. Invariably, though, I find the amenities to come nowhere close to compensating for the costs associated with staying that the "luxury" spot. On top of all this, these places frequently mislead guests with vague promises rarely fulfilled. I remember staying at a place in Sydney that stated an airport shuttle was "provided"; what they meant is they could make arrangements, but I still had to pay for it.

Conversely, budget places (less than $100, preferably a lot less) rarely pretend to be anything else, generally provide comfortable rooms, and don't try to wring every last penny out of you. Yeah, you don't get gold-plated bathroom fixtures, but you get everything you need from a place you're mostly just sleeping (and occasionally eating) in...and the service can be just as good as the fancy places.

The USA is full of these types of bargain places. Europe, on the other hand, tends to provide much more of the first type...overly expensive, light on the comfort, absent of service...much less WiFi.

Posted by: David Lawler | May 7, 2010 8:23:43 AM

Always a pet peeve of mine. With rooms costing less than $100/night you typically get free parking and free WiFi. Rooms costing over $100/night you pay an extra $10-15 for each. I think you have the answer: "pricier hotels I am forced to use on business travel...". Same reason you can often rent a mid or full size car for less than a compact or sub-compact--a logical rental car company response to travel policies that mandate smaller cars.

Posted by: Todd G | May 7, 2010 8:59:56 AM

Lesson to be learned here:

When the consumer pays himself, prices come down. When it's on an expense account and the consumer is being reimbursed fully, prices go up.

Thus it is with motels. Thus it is with health care.

Posted by: Corky Boyd | May 7, 2010 9:00:55 AM

I recently stayed at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston. All Fairmont hotels (I believe) have Free in-room WiFi for members of their President's Club. I found this out after I'd paid on the first day (or my wife's employer had), but signed up for it and had free WiFi the rest of the trip. It's free to sign-up, so it was a good deal.

Posted by: Mike | May 7, 2010 9:16:02 AM

It's true, I've always found this to be one of the biggest ripoffs. I guess the luxury hotels figure that if you can spend $300/nigh to stay there, you'll shell out another $15 for Internet. And since many luxury hotels rely on business travel, people generally figure their company will reimburse them for that expense.

Posted by: Tim L | May 7, 2010 9:53:45 AM

The more you pay, the less you get. Next in line as you go up is 'no ice machines'. Want ice? Call room service. And TV. Hampton level you get a pretty broad satellite/cable selection. Hilton, lots of pay choices but maybe not even HBO for free.

Posted by: GRW3 | May 7, 2010 10:03:58 AM

I was a Marriott guy for years. Got hit with one of these charges on top of their normal high-end rates, and then a parking fee - at a hotel that had never charged one = No more Marriotts.

Posted by: Lee | May 7, 2010 10:21:18 AM

Sheesh. I travel mid to low end -- matter of fact, often choose a motel on the road because of their free wi-fi. My beef is with hotels (stayed in a Ramada Express or something recently) where the wi-fi from the McDonalds next door had a better signal reach than the mhotel itself.

Then there are the airports that are starting to charge ... Get a grip guys. It's the 21st century.

Posted by: JAL | May 7, 2010 10:33:24 AM

I am typing this from Tampa Intl. Decent connection - and - free! I am in wifi heaven :)

Posted by: Peg | May 7, 2010 10:38:15 AM

WiFi is $19.95 per day at the Chicago Hilton!

Posted by: ER | May 7, 2010 10:51:10 AM

In the mountains of southwest Virginia, about a quarter mile further from the Interstate than all the usual hotels, is a Howard Johnsons so cheap migrant worker types stay there. Even they have free wifi.

Posted by: Christy | May 7, 2010 11:15:13 AM

Wifi is great at PDX.

I travel a moderate amount through the year. I couldn't tell you how many times I've had lousy Internet both wifi and wired. How hard is it to get this right? Yes, if it can be expensed, they'll charge the B.S. fee.

Posted by: Anthony | May 7, 2010 1:46:33 PM

Very true. The worst I have experienced was at the Hyatt in Cambridge. It was supposed to be "wireless" at $10 per day, but in reality it acted like busy 56K landline that would timeout after 20 minutes. Never again. Thanks for posting

Posted by: PCP Smoker | May 7, 2010 4:07:27 PM

If I go to an internet cafe I might spend £2-3 for an hour of access, even less at some places. In that case I am hiring a space, hiring a computer and paying for internet access. Why am I expected to pay £5 for a single hour of internet access in a room my employer has already hired (internet is not usually essential for my job, so I cannot charge it to expenses) for my own computer?

Posted by: Richard | May 7, 2010 4:33:55 PM

It is worth noting that even though Internet is $9.95 per 24 hours at the Embassy Suites, they offer free drinks two hours a night every day. For a lot of people I know, that's an easy trade to make.

Posted by: Xenocles | May 7, 2010 4:37:34 PM

Things may start changing.

I work for Boeing - there is a company web site we have to use to book our business travel. I'm going on a business trip next week and was just booking the hotel. Most of the 'charge extra for wifi' places are no longer on the 'prefered list' (we can book non-prefered, but we need to justify it). Places with free wifi and included breakfast were highlighted.

There are hotels near vendors that we used to joke about being "the hotel that Boeing built" - places were it was unusual to stay and not run into a fellow Boeing employee - that are no longer on the prefered list due to high rates and charges for things like parking and wifi.

When you start loosing major players like Boeing, you need to re-think your business model.

Tim

Posted by: tdracer | May 7, 2010 10:24:11 PM

Luxury hotels de-bundle generally. Part of that is the other-peoples'-expense effect mentioned by others, though I would add that de-bundled fees allow one to game corporate expense policies, either pigeon-holeing meal vs. lodging vs. internet, or obscuring the distinction under the umbrella of a single hotel invoice, to avoid whatever cost bugaboos the bean counters are chasing at any particular time.

I think part of it, however, is price segmentation, to capture some of the more price-sensitive tourism traffic.

When I contribute user-reviews on travel sites, I always report on the price and quality of the internet service.

Posted by: M. Rad. | May 7, 2010 10:40:38 PM