Having to pay for internet access in hotels is nothing more than moronic. If the revenue is such a big deal, hotels should just slap the $9.99 — or whatever it is — onto the room rate and tell us they’re giving it away for nothing. But, nothing’s worse than spending $250 a night and having to pay another fee to connect to the web, which you’re going to have to do even if you’re on vacation, let alone traveling for business.
The slump in the travel business is giving business travelers more negotiating leverage, which they are using to score free access to the web. The need to put heads in beds, and business travelers still command the big budgets. Back in my corporate travel days, I’d spend $1,000 or more simply on the room … every week. Most leisure travelers don’t come near that on an annual basis — and my spend was modest compared to executives with the approval to satisfy more discriminating tastes.
So, you’d think hotels would want to keep business travelers happy, right? And since internet access is what’s most important to this group of hotel buyersSome upscale hotels, like the new Andaz chain from Hyatt, are rolling internet access into their rates, while major chains such as Hilton, Marriott and Starwood are giving in to business traveler demands but not changing their policies (to avoid setting a precedent they’ll be stuck with when the market recovers).
For the hotel business, giving up the internet money isn’t easy. The industry is at its 20-year low point, with revenue per available room-night (RevPAR) off 17 percent last year. The top properties suffered RevPAR declines of 24 percent. So, when Toni Hinterstoisser, general manager of the Andaz Wall Street, calls internet access charges “an easy way to make money,” it’s clear that the fee is a hard one to give up. Easy money is the best kind when the travel market is in the tank.