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.
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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