91% of U.S. hoteliers offer free Internet access

UNITED STATES Free Internet access at hotels is more common than perhaps many consumers realize.

According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. hoteliers by TripAdvisor, a staggering 91% say they will offer in-room Internet access as a free amenity in 2011. Only 5% of respondents will charge for the amenity, while the remaining 4% have no plans to offer Internet access.

In the first of what the online travel review site says will be an annual survey, hoteliers say they expect average room rates will either hold steady (51%) or increase (45%) this year. Three in five U.S. hotel owners are planning interior renovations this year, and two in five will upgrade their properties’ exteriors.

Most owners appear to be embracing online consumer engagement, with 57% expecting to grow social media marketing budgets this year, and just 6% anticipate social media budget cuts. Meanwhile, virtually all owners surveyed—an astounding 99%—plan to respond to online guest reviews in 2011, with the majority saying they will respond to both positive and negative comments.

Mobile marketing is a growing trend as well. A quarter of respondents plan to launch programs for the first time to engage with travelers using mobile devices, and another 27% say they offered such programs last year and will continue to do so this year. Still, nearly half of U.S. hoteliers have no plans to offer programs to engage travelers using mobile devices in 2011.

In terms of marketing strategy, discounting continues to be the most commonly-employed tactic—61% of hoteliers plan to attract guests by putting rates on sale. Other popular tactics include offering special amenities (36%), offering bonus rewards points (29%), offering deals on nearby attractions (23%) and offering a free night’s stay with booking (16%).