Should Hotel Wi-Fi Be Free? Industry Insights From LinkedIn

Not long ago I wrote a blog post called The Beginning of the Free Wi-Fi Hotel Revolution?, which I shared on LinkedIn in order to gain some expert insight on the topic.

And boy, did I get some. With 106 comments, you let me know exactly which side you stood on the free wi-fi debate. Here’s just a sample of some of the comments I received…

Should Hotel Wi-Fi Be Free? The Answers:

It depends on who’s asking and where they are. In a small town yes, it is expected. In larger towns why waste the opportunity to make money?” – Darius Merchant, Pizza Guru at Mellow Mushroom

If not free, hotels should at least reduce the price. I worked as a Front Desk Agent at a hotel where the wireless was not free, and many guests considered this to be unacceptable…Just across the street was a coffee shop and a deli that provided free internet service. Picture this: we had a Starbucks in the lobby of our hotel, but guests decided to walk across the street to another in order to get free wi-fi. I don’t want to think about the amount of money we must have lost!” – Gina Doerr, Customer Service Expert in the Hospitality Industry

I don't think hotels should offer free wi-fi in the common areas such as lobbies. For the main reason that if hotels did, the freeloaders would sit there all day long and never move. Just look at Starbucks, I've seen the same people there every morning for hours with their laptops and only buy one coffee.” – Frank Fong, Minority Owner at Realty Advisors Inc

It is simple, the costs are low, the gains are high. Asking money scares off customers, free wi-fi attracts guests at almost no costs. It is a necessity like the towel.” – Peter Ouwens, Director at Pedro Holandes Travel

Our property gives complimentary internet at a set speed. (It's just fast enough to surf the web and check email) Most of our travellers are satisfied with this service. Those that aren't are given the option to pay for an upgrade in speed. Some people choose to use their phones and never request wi-fi access to begin with.” – Tanner Howell, Guest Services Manager at Planter’s Inn Savannah

It's important to understand that providing wi-fi now a days is not what it used to be. The average family is using up to 6 devices when traveling, all requiring wi-fi. This is an explosion of network bandwidth requirements and improved access points etc. In order to accommodate everyone there needs to be an investment into the hotel infrastructure that continually needs updates and support. This brings me to say that internet needs to be free for guest to access email and internet, but for other Internet activity like online movies, gaming etc, this is a service that needs to be paid for.” – Nathan Lee, CEO at YellowWood Networks Inc

The amount of bad feelings from guests should tell us how out of favour hotels are on this subject” – George McIntosh, Executive Steward at Marriott Hotels

For the typical business professional, free wi-fi is a right, not a luxury. We live in a connected world, and with the advent of smart phones, savvy hoteliers see free wi-fi as a way to drive additional business.” – Yorick Cox, President at TriVest Capital LLC

You cannot survive without offering free wi-fi, especially if you are 4/5 star hotel and claim to care about meeting and exceeding guest expectation. The reality is that a Starbucks or a small cafe just across your hotel is providing free high speed wi-fi access and if this is the case how would you stay away from it? In our hotels we say the rate is BB (bed and breakfast), however I think, it soon time to say the rate is BW (BWifi).” – George Verghese, Hotel Operations Manager


It seems, that most people are in favour of the free wi-fi hotel revolution – but is this really what we are seeing in practice? Hotel Industry Magazine posted this article earlier this month, stating how the UK hospitality sector is losing repeat business by failing to meet customer wi-fi needs.

According to a new study by NETGEAR, 76% of hospitality venues are convinced that their quality of service and facilities are far more important to customers than wi-fi. As many as 43% believe customers think poor or non-existent wireless access is a price worth paying for the experience on offer.

That’s in stark contrast to the 33% of leisure travellers and 67% of business guests who say they would not return to a hotel that offered inadequate wireless access.

And that’s not just a one-off statistic either, surveyed 1,000 travellers, who ranked free wi-fi as the top in-room hotel amenity.

So is a load of talk and no walk? Or are hotels slowly beginning to catch on to the free wi-fi revolution?