Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hotel WiFi Disservice

Last weekend my housemate went to Atlanta for an event she wanted to attend. She stayed at what is generally considered a moderately priced hotel chain which caters mainly to business travelers. After a nearly nine hour drive she wanted to unwind on Friday night and, being very much the geek, chose to go online. The hotel, like most major chains, offers free WiFi service. Perhaps more relevant to my point, they advertise free WiFi service.

Well, she could connect to their wireless network but couldn't get to the internet or connect to any websites. The hotel staff was neither helpful nor knowledgable when she reported the problem. She could ping their router so she suspected a DNS issue. She called me and I gave her the IP addresses for the OpenDNS nameservers. That solved the problem. It turns out the hotel did have free WiFi provided you are technically competent enough to troubleshoot a DNS problem and have alternate nameserver IP addresses on hand for DNS resolution. I somehow think that for most of their guests WiFi was effectively down.

A few years ago I traveled extensively for business. I found that hotels which had wired internet service were generally reliable. Hotels which offered WiFi services had problems far too often. I can't expect a hotel clerk or even a hotel manager to know how to solve wireless networking issues. I can expect them to care if the service is down as much as they would care if telephone service or TV was down throughout the hotel. In my experience they just don't.

In one place without working WiFi I was told they hoped to have the service provider in to check the system the following week. I had reservations for four nights. I checked out after one night and went to a different hotel. My work depends on my remaining connected. That is one hotel, a fairly expensive one at that, where I would never stay again. I would think, in this day and age, hotels would begin to realize just how important connectivity is to their guests. Sadly it often isn't the case.


Mark said...

As bad as hotel wifi might be, the worst is having to pay for it. Staying in higher-end hotels like Marriott/Embassy Suites, you're already paying a lot for the room. Then comes that $12.95 a day internet fee. Are you kidding me? Higher-end should mean higher quality, not overcharging... especially in today's "always connected" world

Brian Snipes said...

I agree 100%. Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn give free wifi for about 1/2 the price of Embassy Suites. You can spend the money saved to eat at IHOP ( at least in Little Rock where they are all within a few blocks of each other ).

James said...

> Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn give free wifi for about 1/2 the price of Embassy Suites

And their wifi almost always works with Linux (almost because the service provider varies amongst the hotels). They also have a free breakfast.

Country Inn and Suites also seems to be good in that regard, though I've stayed in too few to be certain.

Conversely, a Hyatt I stayed at once also charged for Internet access.

James Dxion

Ian said...

"free wifi for about 1/2 the price of Embassy Suites"

I thought "free" meant zero price!!

Carolyn Sait said...

I’ve worked in hospitality broadband industry since it was all new in 2000 and you’re quite right to say that this is not an area of expertise for a hotel. Of course they want to provide the guest with a great experience but in the case of internet connectivity they nearly always rely on 3rd parties to provide the required support to keep the service up to scratch and to help guests with connectivity issues.
You mention an interesting point about wired internet service levels being generally more reliable than WiFi, and in my experience this is due to so many venues (hotels and others), rejecting the investment of a wired solution in favour of a “tick the box” type WiFi offering, which falls short of providing the speed, security and support that travellers increasingly value.
Things are generally improving all the time, and hotels now take connectivity very seriously as they recognise how crucial this is to guest satisfaction. I know a number of hotels now investing in 100Mb lines, for example.