Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Hotel wi-fi: free of charge or a paid-for service?

Travelling around England and Poland I've been stayed at a wide variety of hotels from scruffy guest houses (when I'm paying) to four- and five-star hotels (when there's a corporate sponsor). A basic rule of thumb is - the cheaper the hotel, the greater the likelihood that in-room wi-fi is free of charge.

Staying at the Gateshead Hilton (**** £100 a night), Newcastle, "charges are applicable". Edinburgh's Holiday Inn (****, £100 a night) offers its guests a "wireless fee". Yet at the Craig House Hotel in Edinburgh (£29 a night) wi-fi is free. As it is in the Ibis Budget (£31 a night).

So I was surprised and delighted that The Queens hotel in Leeds and the Nottingham Belfry (both ****, both in the QHotels group) offered free in-room wi-fi. Brilliant! QHotels also offer a shoe polishing machine and a Corby trouser press in each room.

The Daily Telegraph had an article about this subject a few months ago - here it is (worth noting the results of the online poll here - 92.5% of respondents think that it is not acceptable for hotels to charge guests for in-room wi-fi access)

There was free wi-fi in the conference area at the Gateshead Hitlon, though only after typing in a login and password; each session lasted an hour, after which you had to log in again and enter password. So there I talking to a potential client, about to google something for him on my laptop, to discover that once again that day I needed to log on. And the conference organisers were paying top whack to use this venue. So much better to have it free and limitless. At the QHotels, I could catch up with business and news in my room, and use my laptop during the event, all seemlessly.

This is how things should be. I'm sure that free wi-fi will extend across the upper end of the hotel industry because of the normal pressure of competition from cheaper hotels.

Since wi-fi has made its way into hotel rooms, I've found that just as at home, I'm not switching on the television. TV has become an old-fashioned way to accessing video content (zero control over when you watch, and little control over what you watch). I'm sure that in ten years' time, few hotels will bother investing in traditional TV sets for their rooms. What is more likely will be free ultra-high speed broadband wi-fi, and if there is a TV, it will be video-on-demand rather than old-school BBC1/ BBC2/ ITV/ Channel4/ Channel5 set-up.

The cheaper the hotel, the freer the wi-fi
Now it's time to leave the Nottingham Belfry and travel down to Birmingham, to a Hitlon hotel, where wi-fi will be a paid-for extra. Thank you, I won't. And I will make a point of avoiding any hotel that continues to charge extra for wi-fi if I can possibly help it.

Follow-up: Thursday 14 November - the Hitlon Garden Inn claims it has complimentary wi-fi 'in every guest room'... except it doesn't work. On the third floor (of seven) anyway. Ah... And the Hitlon Garden Inn does not have TV sets in the rooms - there's an iMac instead, which proves that my prediction (two paragraphs above) is indeed coming true. TV is becoming history.

This time last year:
An advanced plan to escape the Hammer of Darkness

This time two years ago:
Poppies and pride

This time three years ago:
Setting sun in the mountains

This time four years ago:
That learning moment

This time five years ago:
Along the Polish-Czech border

This time six years ago:
Ul. Poleczki - remember it this way?

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