Hilton gives free internet access by status

The elites get free internet access at Hiltons, and the rest can eat cake … which is how it should be. The hotel company has decided to reward its best customers with this perk, which translates to between $10 and $15 a night in value. To qualify, you need to be gold-level or above. Internet access is one of the more unpopular extra charges, especially for business travelers who have no choice but to incur it. For Hilton, tying the waived fee to status provides an easy way to experiment with easing up on the fee while keeping it contained.

Jeff Diskin, a Hilton senior executive for customer marketing, “Business travelers rank quality, high-speed internet access as one of the most important guest room attributes.” He adds, “By giving complimentary internet access to our Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond members globally, we will meet our guests’ evolving demands.”

Survey says: Hotel guests generally happier with their stays

It’s no surprise the hotel industry is making a strong comeback. When travel started to falter in the down economy, hotels kept the spirit alive with the ‘staycation’ craze. Now, as more people start spending money on much-needed vacations again, the hotel industry is once again at the forefront of recreating the ultimate customer service experience and according to travelers, hotels are doing a pretty good job.

The latest survey results from J.D. Power and Associates says guests have generally been happier with their hotel experience over the past year. The study finds that the proportion of hotel guests making reservations online has increased in 2010. Not surprisingly, a drop in hotel prices had a little something to do with this, but we’ve heard from more hotels that customer service and personalized guest programs have been at the forefront of their efforts over the past year.

So, how has your hotel stacked up against its competition? The latest study measures how well hotel chains satisfy their customers and ranks the hotels by economy-budget to upscale-luxury. The study leaves out independent chains and hotels, but more well-known brands like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Embassy Suites and Hilton are part of the survey. Drury Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Microtel Inns & Suites, Omni Hotels and The Ritz-Carlton rank highest in customer satisfaction.

The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction within their respective segments:

Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton
Upscale: Omni Hotels & Resorts
Mid-Scale Full Service: Hilton Garden Inn (for a second consecutive year)
Mid-Scale Limited Service: Drury Inn & Suites (for a fifth consecutive year)
Economy/Budget: Microtel Inns & Suites (for a ninth consecutive year)
Extended Stay: Homewood Suites

We’re curious: Do you agree with the results? Were you satisfied with your most recent hotel stay?

Business travelers will take upgrades over free food and web

If you were traveling on business, which would you prefer: free in-room internet access, frequent room upgrades or complimentary breakfast? According to a poll of Hilton’s HHonors program, the room upgrade hit #1, followed by the free grub and finally comp’ed web access. Barbara De Lollis, of USA Today‘s Hotel Check-In column, speculates that this is because business travelers want comfort and can convince their companies and clients to pick up the tab.

Reading this article made me think back to my years on the road as a management consultant, and to my surprise, my behavior aligned with the survey results. Room upgrades mattered most. I’d get a bit more elbow room. It wasn’t about status, importance or even being able to run laps around my temporary living room. Larger guestrooms – and suites, especially – allowed me to put more physical space between where I lived and where I worked while on the road. When workdays stretch past 16 hours, it’s important to have any coping mechanism you can grasp, and being able to segment off the work space sure helped.

While I personally detest the hotel practice of charging for web access, it’s never an issue when I’m traveling on business. The companies and clients for which I’ve worked have picked up the tab without a second thought. When on vacation, I regularly had my companies pick up my internet tab, as well, a small price for them to pay to have access to me while I was away. Likewise, clients and employers pay for food. And personally, I’m rarely thrilled with the food offered at free hotel breakfasts and when I travel on my own, I usually pay for a good meal than suffer through a free one. Also, I never really ate breakfast during my road warrior days, and I know I wasn’talone. So, a free breakfast is really … well … worthless.

What’s missing from the survey, unfortunately, is club-level access. When I was on the road all the time, this was my favorite amenity. It gave me a place to go other than my room, where I could get a drink, grab a snack and unwind. Hiltons definitely delivered best on club lounges, with the two most memorable for me being the Hilton Embassy Row in Washington, DC and the Hilton in London, Ontario. The former was comfortable and great for networking, and the latter had the best club-level service I’ve ever experienced.

Lewis the Duck welcomes younger guests to Homewood Suites by Hilton

Some hotels consider their pool to be the only way to entertain younger guests. Homewood suites by Hilton takes welcoming kids one step further by being the only chain in the world to publish a line of children’s books.

The books revolve around the adventures of an adorable wood duck called Lewis. In the books, you join Lewis on his trips. Not only are the books really well written and illustrated – they are also educational. In the first book, “Lewis the Duck and his long trip”, kids learn about hotels and how to locate a Homewood Suites (look for the duck!). In the newest book, “Lewis the Duck goes to Canada”, kids learn about our neighbors to the north.

The books are available in the “Suite Shop” at Homewood Suites properties, or online at the fantastic Lewistheduck.com. At that site, kids can also play a Lewis the Duck game or create their own Lewis luggage tag. The books cost $7.99.

One cute fact I learned – the books are written by the global head of Homewood Suites brand management – Bill Duncan. As we mentioned earlier this week, Homewood Suites are a great pick for families traveling with kids, and being able to read to your kids from a Homewood Suites may make their trip even more enjoyable.

Feds Try to Halt Starwood Suit of Hilton to Chase Criminal Charges

Usually, it’s what goes on inside the hotels that is mysterious. Illicit trysts, quiet business deals and the occasional rendez-vous of spies (very occasional, I suspect) are what we’d love to believe happens in behind the closed doors of hotels up-market and down. The reality, however, is far more interesting. There is plenty of espionage going on in the hotel world, but it’s the hotels themselves – not he guests – who are getting in on the action … and now the feds are involved.

A lawsuit filed by Starwood Hotels against competitor Hilton may have to wait for a bit. Federal prosecutors believe that the civil litigation could impede the criminal investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is pursuing charges that could include conspiracy, computer fraud, theft of trade secrets and interstate transportation of stolen goods against Hilton, as well as two executives that that the company hired from Starwood.

According to the filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “The government seeks a stay of discovery pending resolution of the criminal investigation.”

Starwood alleges that Hilton swiped confidential documents in an attempt to develop an offer that would compete with Starwood’s W Hotels brand. Before the civil effort can be put on hold in favor of the criminal investigation, a judge will have to sign off on the motion.

Hilton’s response to the filing, according to USA Today is: “Hilton Worldwide continues to fully cooperate with the Government’s investigation and supports the Government’s motion to stay discovery in the Starwood civil litigation matter.”

Not exactly earth-shattering.