by Terry Gardner
Beyond a comfy bed and a great shower, most travelers crave in-room Wi-Fi. “I think Wi-Fi now is a given as a business traveler,” says John DiScala, a.k.a. Johnny Jet. “You can’t function without it. Who wants to go down to the lobby to connect?”
Switchfly, a global travel e-commerce company based in San Francisco, recently conducted a survey to find out what U.S. travelers craved the most while traveling, In-room Wi-Fi came out on top of the list. As it turns out, having access to their email accounts was very important to airline customers and hotel guests. And furthermore, people are willing to pay for Wi-Fi service when it isn’t complimentary.
The online survey included 10,000 travelers between the ages of 18 and 88, according to Daniel Farrar, CEO of Switchfly.
The Switchfly survey results don’t lie. Hotels around the world confirm that Wi-Fi access is important to their guests.
Drakes Hotel Brighton in England has “certainly seen a shift of priority toward Wi-Fi,” says Carla ter Maat, marketing manager with the luxury hotel. Drakes caters to both corporate and leisure guests and ter Maat says almost everyone asks for the hotel’s Wi-Fi password as soon as they get the keys to their room.
The twenty-room hotel has two routers and four Wi-Fi access boosters for optimized connectivity. Guests often arrive with their own Netflix Dongles and Fire TV Sticks and are ready to stream their favorite films. “Despite having a large collection of films,” says ter Maat, “our DVD players are now redundant, as well as the iPod docks in the rooms. People are now using their own devices for music streaming and downloading.”
Z NYC Hotel in Long Island City, Queens, New York, is popular with both domestic and international travelers. Raymond Keane, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, says that 90 percent of its guests ask about Wi-Fi at check-in. “Demand for Wi-Fi has increased over the last two to three years,” he says. “What’s changed is the age of travelers who now ask about Wi-Fi. Younger travelers always asked about the amenity but now older travelers are interested as well.” The hotel’s cable Wi-Fi is complimentary.
A representative with InterContinental David Tel Aviv says that more than 90 percent of its guests use Wi-Fi. They don’t ask about it at check-in because most guests and IHG Rewards members already know that InterContinental hotels around the world offer high-speed internet. It is so popular that the Intercontinental David Tel Aviv is adding a new routier service that helps the hotel and guests connect in real-time to ask the concierge a question, request towels, etc. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.
At Four Seasons Costa Rica, Oriane Lluch, director of public relations, says that many guests not only take advantage of free Wi-Fi, but they pay to upgrade to premium Wi-Fi. A new program at the hotel, however, rewards guests with a new iPhone cover when they choose to disconnect for at least 24 hours by placing their phones in the hotel safe. (She didn’t say whether Android users are also encouraged to try a digital detox to engage in up to 24 digital-free activities.)
But before we disconnect, we usually need to check email at least one last time.
Johnny Jet recommends using Speedtest.net to check the speed of a hotel’s Wi-Fi. He requests a room with good Wi-Fi at check-in. In a small hotel, he says, “rooms above the lobby are often better for good Wi-Fi.”
Johnny often uses his T-Mobile phone as a hotspot. And although T-Mobile may not be that strong in the U.S., internationally it rocks. He’s even gotten a full signal on an African safari. “In the old days, I would land in an international destination and have to wait for a Wi-Fi spot, but now I can check my email whenever and upload to social media for free.”
Terry is a freelance journalist who contributes to several newspapers (print and online) and websites, including the Los Angeles Times Travel, Chicago Tribune Travel, Dallas Morning News, Travel Weekly and Global Traveler. She writes a syndicated monthly travel app column for Chicago Tribune and is passionate about travel, the environment, wildlife, scuba diving and adventure.