Hilton announced today that they’ll begin offering a “premium” paid wifi option at Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, and Home 2 Suites properties.

Via USA Today:

Josh Weiss, vice president of brand and guest technology for Hilton, says the hotels will start offering the faster Wi-Fi in the next two months and roll it out to all hotels in those brands throughout this year.

The price will vary depending on the location, but guests will typically be charged $3.95. They will be able to use it on up to three devices.

Weiss says guests have indicated in surveys that they would be willing to pay for upgraded bandwith.

This is interesting, because it comes after Hilton updated their terms & conditions late last year regarding free internet for elite members. The terms & conditions used to state the following regarding HHonors Gold & Diamond member internet:

Complimentary In-Room High-Speed Internet Access during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™.*

And they updated the terms to say:

Complimentary In-Room and Lobby Wi-Fi Internet Access during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™.*

So while that seemed like a subtle change, I guess it wasn’t without explanation. Ultimately faster internet is a good thing, and $3.95 isn’t an unreasonable price to pay for it. But that’s only if they keep the free wifi at the same speed, and introduce truly high speed wifi. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I certainly hope this isn’t like most other things in the industry, where they start charging for the current product, and then offer a lesser product for free.

Ultimately this is a trend I think we’ll see more of at limited service properties. They don’t have that many ancillary revenue opportunities given the lack of restaurants, room service, etc., so I think we’ll see them getting creative in other ways.

What do you guys think? Are you happy about the option, or scared of the implications?

  1. January 30th, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Ray said,

    I use Hilton properties exclusively (mostly Homewood and Embassy) about 100 nights a year and since they have a horrible website, not sure they will be able to pull off offering an expanded service with a basic version unless they contract it out. Hilton really does have one of the worst IT groups around for a major company. (second to UA)

    I lean to the side where they will pull the basic free service and are looking for a way to add the fee to us just like airlines have added fees across the board. I am skeptical.

  2. January 30th, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Brian said,

    That’s exactly what they’re doing- trying to charge for what was once free.
    Aria Las Vegas did this, when they opened they had ultra fast, easy to use wifi. Then last year they reduced the speeds of their free wifi to about that of dial up (I’m not kididng), and started charging an obscene amount , like $20 for 4 hours of high speed use.
    After so many complaints, they “doubled” their free wifi speeds, so you’re at about what mobile Edge service would provide. And had the audacity to tour that they “doubles the speed” and have the fastest free wifi of any Vegas resort.

  3. January 30th, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    TravelinWilly said,

    Interesting…

    I just got back from a stay at a Marriott Residence Inn, and when checking in on Monday the agent told me that wireless was free, but they were offering SUPERFAST (I wasn’t listening to the branding terms or the words, really, I was very tired) for $4.95/day, but since I was platinum it was “free.”

    After reading the above comments, it will be interesting to see what happens with hotels throttling back artificially on the high-speed just to make customers pay more, while the bandwidth is already there/available and costs the hotel nothing more in incremental or variable costs to supply it. I guess “We can get away with it” is a compelling business case these days(?). Which leads to…

    …also interesting is how analogous this is to what the net neutrality advocates are championing, because the parallels are…quite real.

  4. January 30th, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    KahunnaTravel said,

    Though I’m disappointed by this, it fits a developing pattern for Hilton. I had an interesting conversation with a Hilton corporate person a couple of weeks ago in Vegas where I was being given a tour and briefing of their new timeshare affiliation at the Vegas Trump. As we sat in the bar after the tour, I remarked how disappointed I was at the massive HHonors devaluation and what a poor value I thought HHonors redemptions were in comparison to Hyatt or IHG. To my amazement, this person actually agreed with me and said that all of this was being driven by Blackstone’s desire to boost revenue forecasts and cut “liability overhang” (ie, too many HHonors points being out there) to maximize the forthcoming Hilton IPO pricing. This person also hinted that other changes “were in the works”. This wifi policy change may be an example. I also subsequently heard back-channel that Hilton may also get tougher on time windows for canceling reservations without a penalty.

  5. January 30th, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Points With a Crew said,

    I fear that what you suggested is more likely – that they will “slow down” the free internet and only give decent internet for a price…

  6. January 30th, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Sam said,

    And at this point I should patronize Hilton because……?

  7. January 30th, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Erik said,

    I actually like this announcement, if it means that paying $$$ will actually get decent bandwidth. Many of the hotels where I frequently stay had only paid internet in the past and speeds were pretty good. Then in the last 2-3 years they switched over to free but didn’t bother to increase their incoming bandwidth. The net impact was that the internet speed became glacial during the peak evening hours. It was upsetting because there was no other option unless I left the hotel to go somewhere else. I will happily pay $5 or $10 to get guaranteed internet speed that is good enough for streaming Netflix. $3.95 is even better.

  8. January 30th, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    u600213 said,

    Another downgrade in benefits. If they gave it to Diamonds for free, it would help sway me to not drop to Gold.

    As TravelinWilly mentioned, at a full service Marriott last week I was offered their higher speed internet complimentary as a Platinum member.

  9. January 31st, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Glenn said,

    Skeptical.

    Very rarely seen “fast” Wi-Fi at a hotel. Much more often for it to be glacial, or start out good but drop to dial-up speeds during peak evening hours.

    I can live with say 500kbps free and > 1Mbps for a minimal charge, but if you can’t stream Netflix or use a Slingbox over the “enhanced” Wi-Fi then it ain’t worth extra money.

  10. January 31st, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Kris said,

    Before they have even rolled this out people are going to ditch Hilton in expectation they will slow down free wifi? How about you wait until there is actually evidence to support it.
    I’m sitting here at a Hyatt Regency with 500kbps and would gladly pay $7-10 for 5mbps+.

  11. January 31st, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Alain said,

    I’ve stayed at various Marriott properties where there’s a choice of free basic wifi and enhanced wifi for a fee. As an elite member, I’ve always been able to use the enhanced service for free. It’s a good deal, since it’s sometimes around $15.

  12. February 13th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Artice said,

    I guess I’ll be in the minority, but, I guess I can relate to the position of the hotel. We have turned internet access into something we just expect to be there – on top of that, we just expect it to be fast. But, fast is relative, isn’t it? What’s fast for me to check my email and skype with my family might not be fast for the person who wants to stream movies and play online games.

    Speed comes at a cost. Sure, the bandwidth itself is a factor, but so is the cost of building a wireless network capable of supporting hundreds of rooms and guests – all trying to get online at about the same time. I work in the network industry. I see those Cisco AP’s in the ceiling tiles. Those aren’t cheap. Neither is the equipment on the back end that has to support it. And, I get that every few years, they have to buy it again as the technology needs demand. I mean, who here thinks that you can run a big hotel on 802.11b?? Of course not!

    So, I guess that they have a couple options. They can raise room rates. Increase the cost of a drink in the bar. Charge me to park my car in the lot. Remember, these aren’t the fancy flagship chains we’re talking about, these are the budget-minded Hampton Inn and Garden Inns that go for about $100 a night. I get a choice as to whether or not I watch Netflix or run video chat. I could just watch TV, go to a movie, enjoy a couple hours in the lounge, call my wife on my phone, or spend a few hours in the evening getting caught up on a book or maybe, dare I say, do a little work. Its my choice to get online and I appreciate that the Hotel, despite the fact that they’re not charging me $20 a night to park my car or $300 a night for a bed and a shower, they provide internet access that doesn’t cost me $10-$20. I also like the fact that I can pay a little to get a better online experience.

    Now as I step off that box, I’ll say this to any Hotel industry types that may be following the conversation. Use the money wisely. If you are going to charge us for “premium”, make it premium. Use that money to upgrade your network and increase your bandwidth. I get that you want me to have a little skin in the game if I want a better connection, but, do your part and don’t turn this into another revenue stream.

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