February 14, 2012

Hotel CEOs talk new tech challenges

USA TODAY assembled five of the industry's top executives last month for a discussion on hotel Internet fees to iPad apps, new lobbies and chainwide hotel renovations.

USA TODAY: Internet access is a top amenity for travelers. With the iPad revolution, bandwidth use is growing at a faster pace. What are you doing in response?

Marriott: Well, we're working to try and get down to a few (Internet) suppliers, because in the past we had a bunch of suppliers, like 80 or 90. We have 3,700 hotels and everyone's hired their own supplier, so we're trying to narrow the number so we can increase bandwidth and improve the service. It's a huge problem. Everyone wants to talk in the room and they want to download everything they can. It's getting to be quite a challenge.

IHG: I also think we're going to have to look at things like differential charges. (For instance,) basic wireless you could get for free and maybe you pay more for high speeds so people who really want it can get it. We all see it as an issue. It's one of the big dissatisfiers that you see in a lot of hotels.

Carlson: Free Internet is the greatest demand in terms of amenities of the travelers. It's almost like having water or air conditioning in the room. So we have a strategy of offering this for free at an increasing cost (to hotel owners).

Wyndham: We offer it for free in most of our brands, though not all of them. But whether you charge or whether it's free, you'd better have some dependability and reliability because it will become the single source of complaints. By the way, truck drivers who stop at Super 8 are using mobile devices, so it is widespread.

Choice: We have been free for a long time. It is interesting that the last remaining places where hotels are getting away with charging for it are at the upper-upscale and luxury levels. I think the expectation is that it should be provided free.

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