Hotels are Joining the Free WiFi Wave, but there are Still Some Wipe Outs

May 3, 2013 by

Hotels are Joining the Free WiFi Wave, but there are Still Some Wipe Outs

By Heather Cassell

How many times have you checked into a hotel, especially while on business, and grinded your teeth about not having free internet, or paying nearly $10 a day to get online for only one device?

Those days aren’t in the distant past, but internet fees at hotels are heading there quickly. Nearly two-thirds of hotels offer free Wi-Fi, whether it is free outright from the moment you check in to the moment you check out, free with signing up for a loyalty program, or free if you make your reservation directly with the hotel, according to HotelChatter.com’s Annual WiFi Report 2013.

One-third of hotels still charge for Wi-Fi, including “many luxury brands that charge premium internet fees on top of their pricey room rates,” according to the report.

HotelChatter.com has been checking out and testing internet access at hotels around the world for nearly a decade.

Luxury stays and the premium Wi-Fi aside, travelers, in particular business travelers or women who want to stay in touch with their family and friends while gallivanting around the world, ask, “What is the value of free WiFi?”

Hotels are using it as a gimmick they are touting as bait to lure guests to stay with them, as the report points out. But what is it worth if the signal is “piss poor” where you are practically hanging over a balcony, pressed up against a window in a strange yoga position with your lap top, net book, or tablet attempting to get a signal, finding out the “free” was only for a limited time, or heading to the lobby or the nearest Starbucks to connect? Worse, you can’t get any work done or catch up with the people close to you in your life in the privacy of your hotel room because emails and attached documents are being transmitted and websites are being downloaded at a pace slower than the Pony Express (forget dial-up days).

Often times a hotel has tiered Wi-Fi bandwidth packages for upgrading to get more speed. Seriously? That is completely false advertising and miss leading. What is the value of free Wi-Fi and booking a room based on the added value of free Wi-Fi and any other amenity that comes with the room that the hotel is touting to get you to stay there if it isn’t real?

To resolve the issue, the people at HotelChatter.com suggest asking for some sort of a refund if the internet problem can’t be resolved by the hotel’s IT department fixing the speed.

Overall, if free Wi-Fi is that weak, HotelChatter.com suggests never booking with that hotel brand again and Girls That Roam seconds that.

But, it’s not as simple as that. Wi-Fi fees aren’t one size fits all for any particular hotel brand. Each property within a brand has its own policies and fee structure for the internet and other things.

So, if you don’t have your own personal IT Manager on site with you, like Girls That Roam does (thank you Super G), rather than go through the pain of disappointment with your hotel Wi-Fi connection, here are some helpful tips and notes about where to stay and not stay if you need a internet connection.

The hook up question

Shop around and ask the reservation desk, “What is your Wi-Fi speed per hotel room?”

The standard free Wi-Fi bandwidth at a hotel is 1mbps per room. For those of you, like me, who are challenged in knowing what that means, it translates: What you can do with that is check your email, surf the web, update your social media and maybe stream some music.

Hotel rooms with bandwidth somewhere between 2 and 5mbps per room, translates into the ability to upload and download photos and videos, stream music and do some (our emphasis) video Skyping.

The “internet is your oyster (pretty much),” if Wi-Fi connections are anything beyond 5mbps, Andrew Yorra, co-founder and vice president of Eleven Wireless, which helps hotels build and manage their Wi-Fi networks, told HotelChatter.com.

You can also test a hotel’s web speed by using sites like SpeedTest.net, but if you do this, don’t get distracted by the letter grade, pay attention to the upload and download measurements.

Bad connection

We wish we had a guide like this to avoid bad dates, but that’s not possible. However, here is a partial guide to some of the hotels to avoid if you are seeking free Wi-Fi:

U.S.
1. Conrad (Hilton Hotels and Resorts)
2. Crown Plaza Hotels (InternContinental)
3. Double Tree (Hilton Hotels and Resorts)
4. Embassy Suites Hotels (Hilton Hotels and Resorts)
5. Hyatt Hotels (not including some of the hotelier’s boutique brands)
6. InternContinental Hotels (InternContinental)
7. J.W. Marriott Hotels (Marriott Hotels)
8. Marriott Hotels (Marriott Hotels)
9. Radisson Hotels (Carlson Rezidor Hotels)
10. Renaissance Hotels (Marriott Hotels)
11. St. Regis Hotels (Starwood Hotels and Resorts)
12. Sheraton Hotels (Starwood Hotels and Resorts)
13. W Hotels (Starwood Hotels and Resorts)
14. Westin Hotels (Starwood Hotels and Resorts)
15. Wyndham Hotels (Wyndham Worldwide)

Boutique
1. Affinia Hotels
2. Morgans Hotels
3. Swissotels Hotels
4. Thompson Hotels
5. Tune Hotels
6. Viceroy Hotels

Luxury
1. Dorchester Collection Hotels
2. Jumeirah Hotels
3. Kempinski Hotels
4. Mandarin Oriental Hotels
5. Orient-Express Hotels
6. Rocco Forte Hotels
7. Taj Hotels
8. Trump Hotels New York

For a complete list and notes, visit “Where You Pay http://www.hotelchatter.com/special/Not-Free-WiFi-Hotels-2013.”

Beyond the U.S.

1. The Atlantis Resort (Bahamas)
2. Brickell Bay Beach Club (Aruba)
3. Emporium Hotel Brisbane (Australia)
4. Hilton Singapore (China)
5. Hilton Surfer’s Paradise Gold Coast, Queensland (Australia)
6. Hotel Muse Bangkok (Thailand)
7. Mal Pais (Costa Rica)
8. Mandarin Oriental Paris (France)
9. Marriott Beijing (China)
10. Novotel St. Kilda Melbourne (Australia)
11. Park Hyatt Melbourne (Australia)
12. Sheraton Saigon (Vietnam)
13. Sofitel Sydney Wentworth (Australia)

Now that we have some of the hotels around the world that aren’t Wi-Fi-friendly, where is where to stay where the access to the internet is free, reliable and speedy in the comfort of your room.

London won kudos for increasing its Wi-Fi-friendly atmosphere in its hotels and Las Vegas is quite possibly the friendliest Wi-Fi city in the states (it has its own guide to “Sin City’s” Wi-Fi hookup), according to this year’s HotelChatter.com report.

Many other countries and states within the U.S. have joined the wave of free Wi-Fi.

We heart these hotels for free Wi-Fi

Here are Girls That Roam’s top 5 hotels with free Wi-Fi selected from the report:

U.S.

1. Wynn (Las Vegas)
2. Parc 55 (San Francisco)
3. Hotel Vitale (San Francisco)
4. Vdara (Las Vegas)
5. Element Times Square West (New York)

Around the World

Unfortunately, none of the hotels we’ve stayed at outside of the U.S. made the list, so we can’t make a recommendation, but here is what HotelChatter.com had to say, “International Wi-Fi Heros and Villans.”

Be safe

Remember, hotels, even if you are in your room, are public spaces that can be hacked. Be on the lookout for fake hotel Wi-Fi networks and login sites. So, if you are sending and receiving sensitive information or logging on to check your bank account Yorra suggests using a virtual private network (VPN), to encrypt your communications and wherever you go. Purchasing online is generally safe, due to retailers using Secure Socket Layers (SSL), but added protection isn’t a bad idea.

Another alternative to either avoiding hotel Wi-Fi fees and potential hacking, is to get a Mi-Fi device (Super G and I have one for traveling) or use your smart phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot (check with your carrier about your data package to check into these options).

To read the full report, visit HotelChatter.com Hotel Wi-Fi Report 2013.

To contract an original article, purchase reprints or become a media partner, contact editor [@] girlsthatroam [.] com.

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