Hilton to offer free wi-fi to everyone – and how it compares with the competition

Hilton HHonors became the last major international hotel group this week to announce that it will begin offering free wi-fi to all guests.  Well, almost all guests ….

From August, wi-fi in all Hilton, Conrad, Waldorf-Astoria etc properties will be free if you are a member of Hilton HHonors (not a problem as it is free) and you booked directly.

Diamond members of Hilton HHonors will receive premium high-speed internet for free.  This benefit is due to start in early Summer.  Other guests will receive a slower speed and will need to pay if they want video streaming etc.

Hilton Paris Opera exterior

There are three consequences of this action:

Booking a Hilton property via Expedia just became less attractive.  Hilton has generally been very good at giving Gold benefits (free breakfast, free internet) however you booked as I found out in Munich.  This may no longer be the case.

Hilton Gold became less valuable.  It is one of the better mid-tier status cards to have, of course, because you still receive free breakfast and usually an upgrade.

Adding high-speed wi-fi as a Diamond benefit puts a bit of air between Gold and Diamond.  Many Gold members did not find the extra benefits of Diamond worth the extra nights required.

How does the Hilton deal compare?

Let’s look at where the major chains now stand on free wi-fi:

Hilton – free IF you booked directly and sign up for free Hilton HHonors membership, high-speed offered as a top tier Diamond benefit

IHG Rewards Club – free to all however you booked if you sign up for free IHG Rewards Club membership

Marriott – free IF you booked directly and sign up for free Marriott Rewards membership, high-speed offered as a Gold and Platinum benefit

Hyatt – free to all however you booked, high-speed offered as a Platinum and Diamond Hyatt Gold Passport benefit

Starwood – free IF you booked directly via SPG (this EXCLUDES booking directly with the hotel) and sign up for free Starwood Preferred Guest membership, high-speed offered as a Gold, Platinum and Partner Preferred benefit

Carlson – Radisson has offered free internet to all guests since 2005, Park Plaza offers free internet at the majority of hotels, Park Inn offers free internet to all guests

Is it an own-goal by Starwood, Marriott and Hilton to make you book direct to get free wi-fi?  I can see why they believe it is an incentive.  However, Expedia and the like are responsible for huge volumes of bookings.  When an IHG or Hyatt property shows ‘free internet’ and the Starwood, Marriott or Hilton property listed next to it at the same price does not, it is clear which way a certain part of the market will jump.

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Comments

  1. Think Square says:

    What do Diamonds who don’t book directly get?

    • That’s the question. Same goes for Gold. Hilton usually gives you status benefits however you book – so does a Gold or Diamond who books via Expedia still get free internet?

      • matthew says:

        They only get their loyalty points when booking directly anway, so not very likely that a high tier member will book through any other channels but direct anyway…

  2. Nick Burch says:

    I’ve not had great experiences with the Starwood free internet since the changes in early Feb. Many hotel staff seem not to know about it, and at least once I’ve had to call up the SPG page on my ipad and show it to them before they’d offer me the free premium internet as SPG Gold!

  3. Not sure why Accor Hotels don’t make the list? They offer free WiFi to all provided they join LeClubAccor and irrespective of channel I think.

    • Oversight, sorry, will add

    • In my experience, Accor hotels offer free WIFI to everyone – at least, I’ve never noticed a stipulation that you need to be a member. In many ways. Accor hotels is the best hotel group – this is one example.

      • I like Accor for their frequent promotions (esp. Monday sales) and easy to achieve elite levels. But their platinum benefits are less impressive.

        • Guaranteed lounge access (at a property with a lounge) is not bad, to be honest.

          • Nick Burch says:

            Except that they’ve a bunch of hotels with lounges with opt-outs… I also seem to find that staff at Accor hotels have the lowest knowledge/recognition of their loyalty scheme (Le Club) than any of the chains

            I stay with Accor a fair bit, but I’ve learnt to reduce my expectations, and also to be prepared to get my laptop out to show them part of their own website / show them the rate details I booked which doesn’t match what they printed out / etc!

          • And very very few European properties have lounges..

  4. I genuinely don’t see what the big deal is about Wifi in hotels. I almost always find that tethering to my mobile is much faster and more reliable, particularly in city centres. Fair enough for the international traveller faced with extortionate roaming charges. Even this is changing, I recently signed up with Three and for no extra charge can take my minutes and data abroad (to selected destinations), I won’t have to think twice when I’m in the States next month and all for £15 a month.

    • Charles says:

      You can’t tether at feel at home destinations though.

    • The_Real_A says:

      Three`s at home has very limited coverage around the globe. Fine if you are on three, but many are not (I left 4 years ago as their Indian call center is awful and the 3g was woefully slow in places i needed it)

    • Good point Charles! I don’t travel internationally for business, so when travelling on holiday the laptop stays at home. Being able to use my iPhone is my main priority, so it works for me.

      The_Real_A, I’m hoping that international coverage will extend in time, but who knows… I would think that other networks will be watching this one, the networks have gouged plenty of profit from data over recent years but I don’t see that continuing long term.

      As ever with these things YMMV.

  5. flyforfun says:

    Any idea what happens if you’ve booked as part of a tour package? The tour company offered me the hotel at $80 cheaper a night than the hotel’s website or even the web consolidators. I’m guessing they just see it as a TA booking.

    • Lady London says:

      When arranging corporate events at hotels I always took care to ensure wifi access was included not just in lounges and public areas but in the bedrooms of all attendees. Hotels won’t give you this if you don’t ask. But the person arranging the package or event can ask and get it included often as no extra cost for a corporate event at least.

    • Probably, but nothing to lose by giving the hotel your HH number and seeing what happens.