I recently wrote about how Marriott will be offering free internet to members of Marriott Rewards who book direct from January 15th. Hyatt and Starwood, owner of the Sheraton, W, Westin, St Regis, Luxury Collection and aloft brands, have both decided that they likes this idea and are following suit.
To some extent they had no choice. IHG, owner of Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza etc, now offers free internet to all guests. The only condition is that they are members of IHG Rewards Club which is hardly a condition at all given that you can join for free at the hotel reception.
The Marriott offering is more restrictive as it forces you to book directly via the hotel or a Marriott website. If you use Expedia etc then you will need to pay to get online.
Let’s look at Hyatt first.
From February, whenever you stay in a Hyatt anywhere in the world, ‘base level’ wi-fi will be free. You will, however, need to pay in some hotels to receive ‘fast’ wi-fi, suitable for video and streaming. The faster service will be free for Platinum and Diamond members of Gold Passport.
This is a great result for Hyatt guests. You can read more about Hyatt’s free wi-fi service on their website here.
Starwood is making it more difficult.
Base level Starwood Preferred Guest members will have to choose between booking on Expedia, hotels.com etc and receiving (with hotels.com) Welcome Rewards points, or booking direct and receiving free wi-fi and Starwood Preferred Guest points.
Full details of the Starwood announcement can be found here. Note that you must book online to get free internet – ringing the hotel directly and making a booking does not count, amazingly. Neither does ringing SPG. Booking ‘through a travel professional’ does count but it is not clear what that covers.
Confusingly, each tier of the Starwood programme has a different set of rules:
Preferred (base) level – free standard internet if you book via spg.com
Gold level – free standard internet with no conditions if you select it as your welcome gift, free high-speed internet if you book via spg.com
Platinum level – free high-speed internet with no conditions
To be honest, I think that Marriott and SPG are being too clever here. There are a huge number of people who only book their hotels via Expedia, hotels.com or a similar site. These sites will be telling the potential customer that they must pay for internet at Marriott and Starwood. Internet is a ‘must have’ for most people today, even more so than free breakfast. At almost every price point, Expedia will have an equally good hotel which does offer free internet to everyone – and it is those hotels who will win the business.
Hyatt ‘gets it’. Expedia and the other consolidators will now show that a Hyatt property offers free internet, and it will drive business. You only need to look at the Starwood table above to see that this is far too complex to work properly.
There is no way that I would book a hotel which did not offer free internet. It is not up for discussion. Because I know my way around the various loyalty schemes I can always ensure that it happens, but if I didn’t I can assure you that my stay pattern would look a lot different – and it would involve a lot fewer Hilton, Marriott and SPG properties.
Next up is Hilton – what are they going to do? Restricting free internet to Gold and Diamond members no longer looks sustainable now that Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott have blinked.
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