Posted by: Sarah Lee | November 25, 2009

Free wifi? Check me in!

Hotels offering free wifi are where it's at | pic Dreamstime

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As I write this I’m sat in my local pub, enjoying the warming glow of it’s log fire and a glass of my favourite red. For a change I decided to bring my laptop to my local to work from here for a couple of hours. Like I say, this isn’t my usual workplace, but I fancied a change of scene and given the freedom of freelance life I was able to indulge.

Even then the key to me heading to the pub as late afternoon turned to evening was that I was able to work there because it offers free wifi.

This wouldn’t be the greatest boast, but I live in a village of just 800 people, who enjoy a none-too lengthy list of amenities – two churches, two pubs and a shop. So my forward thinking local has scored – as I can get online I’ve come over, had two coffees, a glass of wine and what the hell – I may even throw caution to the wind and have dinner here.

So it leads me to question: if my local, in a tiny village in middle England can offer free wifi – benefitting from the associated food and beverage revenue – why do hotels big and small insist on charging guests for wifi?

Social networks are buzzing with the whys and wherefores of free wifi in general, while blogs such as London Hotels Insight (in an open letter to London hoteliers) and World of James have highlighted the fact that hotels that charge guests often outrageously high rates for wifi will soon be losing their business as a result.

I won’t repeat the arguments the two bloggers above have already raised so ably. But I will agree that wifi is a necessity – not just to freelancers like myself, but business people, gap year travellers, holidaymakers – in fact anyone that stays in a hotel.

The internet has become completely integrated into everyday life. Nowadays one of my minimum requirements of a hotel is wifi and if it’s provided free of charge I’m checking in faster than you can say internet café.

Yes there are costs attached to the provision of wifi in hotels, but these can be recovered in other ways – through the use of advertising on online access points or just built into the nightly fee – after all internet access is not a luxury these days, but a necessity like running water and electricity. To charge a premium for wifi, often across cumbersome payment platforms, not only leaves guests feeling ripped off, it smacks of small mindedness. Instead hotels should reap the benefits of keeping guests on site who will eat and drink with them while surfing, tweeting and skyping. On many occasions I’ve tweeted observations of a hotel’s great facilities, but it loses its immediacy and interest if I have to wait till I’m able to get to a reasonably priced internet cafe, so chances are I won’t bother.

It’s time more hotels moved into the 21st century and joined their Web 2.0 embracing guests there, for today it is on Web 2.0 platforms that brands are being researched, reviewed, and their reputations realised.

Instead of harping on about hotels that don’t offer free wifi I’ve started a twitter list of hotels that do provide guests with the service they deserve as we head into 2010. You’ll find the hotel free wifi list here. Perhaps it will help you chose a full service hotel and persuade archaic ones to up their game. Let me know of hotels on twitter that offer free wifi and I’ll add them to the list. Equally if you are a hotelier offering free wifi tweet me @sarahleetravels and I’ll add you to it.

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