I came across a post entitled “Why Isn’t Internet Access Free for Travelers?” this morning and I figured I’d step in and answer the question for the author and others who are curious. It’s one of those pat answers that’s almost too easy to answer.
The overwhelming majority of travelers who need Internet access are business travelers. Furthermore, business travelers are pretty much the only segment catered to by the travel industry. Airfares are based on business-oriented itineraries (unless you are going to Orlando, of course). Hotels are priced based on proximity to business locations, such as convention centers, and their prices fluctuate when big conferences or other events come to town. In other words, going to visit Aunt Sally and the kids doesn’t attract to much attention from United, Marriott, etc.
While this is clearly a generalization of the travel industry, it’s a fairly good rule of thumb. So, if you are in charge of building out services for a given company, and you see business travelers as your key segment, you know you can probably charge them for something you effectively hold them hostage over. They don’t just want to go online, they need to get online to do some work.
The most frustrating part, in my eyes, is the quality of the service we receive while traveling. The connectin is typically a standard DSL line split amongst all guests. Access often blocks proxies or other services many folks need to get to their corporate network.
The question I’m curious about is: what is the timeframe for this to remain a viable revenue source for the travel industry at large?
- I can use my 3G-enabled PPC6700 smart phone to get my computer online (via a technology called tethering), and its fast enough to do everything from surfing to slinging. More and more phones include this capability.
- The upgrade to my Sony Vaio VGN-SZ160P laptop includes various options for 3G services, and most manufacturers have these options as well. Alternately you can pick up a card from your cell carrier to provide this service if your laptop doesn’t have it built-in.
- Municipal wifi access is now available in several cities, and rapidly expanding.
- Wimax (Internet everywhere) offerings are on the horizon. Okay, they’ve been on the horizon for a while, but now they’re really on the horizon. You just need to squint a little.
In other words, the various airports, train stations, hotels, motels, Holiday Inns (say what?) around the country have an 18-30 month window in which to suck us dry for the (on average) $9.99 per night for unbelievably overpriced, underdelivering Internet access.
After that, they’ll probably have to start overcharging for regular things. Like the minibar.
I was in two hotels over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Holiday Inn in upstate New York had free wired connections in the room and free wireless int he common areas which extended into our room. Connectivity speed was good, though I don’t feel very secure.
Hilton Times Square charged for broadband, so I used my phone as an EVDO modem which was fine.
More often than not, the hotels I’ve visited in the last year have offered free connections… though I’m prepared with EVDO and T-Mobile Hotspot if needed.
PS You knock both Holiday Inn and Marriott, both of whom seem to offer more free Internet than the others… “Enjoy the convenience of FREE High Speed Internet Access at every Holiday Inn Express hotels in the U.S. and Canada.”
Dave – actually I don’t knock either Holiday Inn (it was a lyric reference – aren’t you a child of the 80s too??) or Marriott (I was referencing how it’s mostly a businessfolks’ hotel).
Of my travels in 2006, which were, shall we say, plentiful, I’d estimate that no less than 70% had paid-for Internet access. Furthermore, in Europe and Asia the rates jumped from ~9.99 per day to ~19.99 per day on average!
By the way, here’s a list of airports with WiFi. A large percentage are free: http://www.travelpost.com/airport-wireless-internet.aspx
Without hearing it (time for a podcast), I’d never get the Rapper’s Delight reference… Though I do know it – notice my Gamer’s Delight post heading yesterday! 🙂 I caught an interesting special on VH1 a year or so ago on how the Sugarhill Gang stole the lyrics which is why they reference people *not* in the band.
stay at a wyndam hotel, or affiliate. Internet is always free, always has been.
nice hotels too.
I can’t comment on the hotel industry, but in airports it seems simple enough to notice that for a decade, all we’ve heard about is airline bankruptcies and failures.
Maybe they need the money?
Quux – it’s a good theory, only thing is, the airlines not only don’t own the airports, they pay them for it. There was a recent dispute between Boston Logan Airport and Continental Airlines because the airline had free access in their lounge, and Logan tried to make them shut it down…