Free Internet Comes To Upscale properties
02/09/2007|3:54:00 PM|Hotelmarketing
FEBRUARY 05, 2007 -- Free Internet access, already a standard across many major U.S. midprice brands, slowly is beginning to creep into upscale properties. So far, only Omni, Radisson and Kimpton have embraced that standard brandwide, but several individual upscale properties also have done so.

The most recent convert was the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, which recently completed a $45 million renovation project. At the beginning of the year, the property announced that both its wired and wireless Internet access would no longer carry a charge, a decision based on conversations with hotel guests.

"They all love the new hotel layout and fresh d├ęcor but had a complaint about upscale hotels in general," according to Mark Everton, the property´s general manager. "We kept hearing variations of the same question: ´How can upscale hotels in San Francisco that charge between $200 and $400 a night charge for high-speed Internet access, when many of the limited-service hotels offer it for free?´"

Maria Chevalier, vice president of global business intelligence for BCD Travel´s Advito consulting division, liked that line of thinking and said she wouldn´t be surprised to see more properties in the tier making the same decision. "I agree with their strategy of saying ´enough´ on the rate," she said. "When you evaluate your cost of stay, it does make a difference."

Free or with a charge, wireless or wired, Internet access no longer is optional for chains wishing to do business with corporate travelers. "It´s the number-one business amenity, and people are expecting it," said John Flack, Hilton´s vice president of hotel broadband technologies.

The San Francisco property´s move does not signal an overall shift in Hilton Hotels Corp.´s upscale properties. The vast majority still charge for Internet access, although Hilton midprice properties Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn offer it for free, said Flack. Following permission from the brand, however, individual upscale properties may make a similar decision.