The future of Internet access

Getting guests to pay for Internet access may soon go the way of telephone-related revenue. The writing appears to be on the wall.

Major brands are making announcement almost daily now about free Internet for loyalty club member, and Hyatt just said everyone can access the web at their properties – loyalty member or not.

Some of these access options are still tiered with guests having to pay a premium for streaming content. However, with Virgin coming to the market and encouraging guests to stream for free with its bawdy bandwidth capabilities, I imagine the tiered revenue opportunity will fade away in the near term. Shrewd hoteliers are marketing free Internet with no restrictions as an integral point of difference – and I fully expect this to continue.

At the same time, Marriott and the AH&LA say they want to protect guests from cyber attacks by restricting the use of personal Wi-Fi systems at their hotels. FCC comments have been staunchly against this plan, Google and Microsoft have joined the fight, too, and the New York Times came out on Sunday with an editorial against any attempts to block personal Wi-Fi access by hotel companies.

I understand hotelier’s desire to hold on to the revenue associated with Wi-Fi access as they have already lost telephone- and TV-related income because everyone today travels with their own systems. But it is only a matter of time before Wi-Fi becomes an expected free amenity and by the end of this year anyone who is not giving away Wi-Fi will likely suffer – and this may even apply to luxury brands which figure their guests can afford the cost anyway. There are too many emerging options for tech-savvy, tech-addicted luxury guests to turn to – and even the rich don’t like to pay for things they think should be as free flowing as hot running water.

So be prepared to write a check to increase your bandwidth as it will soon become a point of entry to compete – perhaps as early as the end of 2015. What do you think?