Internet In Hotels

Photo Credit: Abigail Thompson

This topic gets discussed enough but I rarely give it much thought because most of my experiences are through business travel. The expense therefore is not mine and so the wound doesn’t cut as deep.

Plain and simple – Internet connectivity in hotels sucks!

This trip isn’t a personal one but the fact remains, Internet isn’t free and on top of that, connectivity is barley workable. We have people trying to connect to their email and waiting for 10, sometimes 12 minutes to see their inbox. If too many people connect to the wireless service in the hotel then someone else will get arbitrarily bumped off. So the speed is slow and the rules aren’t fair.We are not in a Motel 6 here either. This is a large Chateau as we call them that hosts many people and large conferences.

Staying in large hotels a few times this year it is easy to see during the week that most are there for business, be it meetings or conferences. That means that they need to be connected. Some will rely on their Blackberry but due to the corporate cost of BES servers and data; some don’t have that luxury.

It seems to me that the hotel industry needs to update their infrastructure but also needs to adopt a new philosophy. Let’s be clear – most travel these days is business related. Quite simply they need to consider their Internet connectivity as a essential service in their hotel.

More and more I am asked which hotels I recommend based on their Internet service. Nothing is more frustrating to people who organize big events than everyone complaining to them about something as simple as Internet access. They have so many other small issues to take care of, they just don’t need to be bothered by people regarding something they can’t fix.

You ask if I can give any recommendations?

  • Call ahead! Don’t wait until everyone is on site or the meeting is booked to figure this out. As a event planner this should be on the top of the list.
  • Make sure that they can handle a lot of traffic. Ask them if their system is equipped to handle every room connecting to wireless or wired Internet at the same time.
  • Check the cost. Some hotels do actually offer free access. It seems to me that they all should in 2010 but some charge $25 a day per connection or even more. If you have 100 people on a 5 day conference that can add $12,500 to your budget.
  • Let’s just say that I have never had a good experience in a hotel that has the DataValet service. I am sure they don’t want to hear that but more often than not there is a lot of trouble connecting to corporate VPNs.
  • Get a fairly competent person to test the VPN connection on site if you can. I know this isn’t always possible but perhaps you have a sales force with someone near by.
  • If you aren’t a big company or you are traveling on your own then perhaps scouting out a backup location with free Internet is a good idea in case of emergency. A Starbucks or other cafe might be the solution to this.
  • If you travel often then mobile Internet might be a better solution. At $20 a day for 5 days you have spent $100 on a week’s trip. That will offer you quite a good plan for mobile Internet, even in Canada where I live and mobile services are usually more expensive.

I think the most important thing is to educate yourself and others around you. Hotels offer inadequate service because they aren’t pressured to improve. If we make the call to the hotel and aren’t satisfied with their Internet plan, then we should tell them we are going to look elsewhere for that reason.

Of course this was all prompted by my current stay – I wrote this article while tethered to my Blackberry, not from the hotel service.

Good luck in your travels, geek on!