Free wi-fi campaign

First hotel group joins the free wi-fi campaign

Best Western has set up its own free wi-fi campaign in an effort to get other hotel groups to offer online access to guests.

The company claims that by offering free internet access it will boost British business – and I’m not entirely convinced by that rationale. Someone will have to pay for it somewhere along the line and in this case it is the hotels themselves – I’ve always argued that it’s not just the cost of internet access at hotels that riles but the nickel and diming of customers that I find really annoying. When I’ve paid a couple of hundred quid for a hotel room, I don’t see why I should have to pay another £20 or £30 just to get online.

They don’t charge for the gym, use of the pool or shampoo and soap, these are all accepted rolle-in charges where available – so why charge to get online?

Nonetheless, it’s about time someone in the hotel industry came out and started shouting about it… so well done Best Western. Perhaps now, some of the other hotel groups will join in? IGH? Hilton? Are you there?

Full press release from Best Western below:

FREE INTERNET COULD SAVE BUSINESS HOTEL GUESTS OVER £1.4BILLION A YEAR

BRITAIN’S biggest independent group of hotels has launched a national campaign encouraging free Internet for everyone, after revealing it could save British businesses a massive £1.4billion a year in charges.

Best Western offers free Internet to all guests staying at any of over 270 hotels across Great Britain – saving them more than £28million annually and now wants others to do exactly the same to help the British economy.

After studying the latest figures released by acclaimed industry market research organisation BDRC, Best Western believes that if all major hotel groups offered free Internet it could save businesses an incredible £1,431,000,000 in the UK every year.

The astonishing figure is based on BDRC statistics which show there were 106 million room nights for business travellers in the UK during 2010, with an average hotel Internet charge of £13.50 per visit.

The average frequent business customer stays away at UK hotels 11 times per year. According to the same BDRC statistics, meaning an average saving to each business person of £197.89 per year.

Now Best Western have launched an online campaign to add further weight to their cause (www.bestwestern.co.uk/freeInternet) where they are inviting others to sign up in support of free Internet for everyone.

Tim Wade, Head of Marketing at Best Western, said: “At Best Western we already offer free Internet as standard for all our guests. Based on the average cost of £13.50 for per-visit use of hotel Internet during hotels stays, we calculate we are saving each guest almost £200 and overall our guests are saving a substantial £28 million every year.

“Imagine if this was standard across the entire UK hotel industry. It would add up to a huge saving for businesses that routinely have to pay anything up to £18 every time one of their executives stays at hotel and needs to access the Internet for work.

“Not only would free Internet encourage more hotel overnight stays thus boosting the hotel industry in the UK, but it will also save businesses a phenomenal £1.4 billion every year.

“We are hugely committed to this. We are hoping our lead, and the success we have seen by introducing free Internet across our entire portfolio of hotels, can be replicated in hotel groups up and down the nation. It would be a massive boost for the hospitality industry and for UK business in general.”

What’s more with over 4,200 Best Western hotels worldwide all offering free Internet keeping in touch will no longer have a sting in the tail.

Tim Sander, Research Director at BDRC Continental and editing author of the annual British Hotel Guest Survey added; “’The importance of the Internet offering in hotels has surged in recent years. For business travellers it has developed into a hygiene factor with guests stating that the provision of the Internet is important when choosing a hotel.

‘But how much is the consumer prepared to pay for Internet? £5 seems to be a threshold in the business market at the moment but even at this price point the odds of buying or not are fairly balanced which implies that they would prefer to get it for free. Hotels still try to squeeze revenue for the Internet out of guests but this could have some very damaging consequences, as for around half of all business travellers free Internet is more important than staying with their 1st choice brand, assuming location and cost factors are satisfied. It appears to be an opinion changing product attribute and clearly gives a competitive edge. That some brands have actually retracted their free Internet recently and started charging for it seems crazy.’

Best Western is Britain’s largest group of independently owned hotels. Each of its 270 hotels are packed with personality from castles to manor houses ranging from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Cornwall.

For more information and to sign the petition please visit www.bestwestern.co.uk/freeInternet and find us on Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BestWesternGB and @bestwesternGB

Wizarding World of Harry Potter to open today – first pics

In a few hours time, Virgin Holidays customers will be the first people into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventures in Orlando – the rest of the not-so-wizarding world gets in from June 18.
Lookswise, the new park is pretty spectacular – see some of the pics below – but sizewise, it could see some people queueing for a quite a while to get into star attractions like Olivander’s Wand Shop where, through some cute acting and clever animatronics, your wand may choose you (before you then pay $25 for it).
Some people are bound to be disappointed by the signature ride Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, not only will some larger people be unable to ride it, there is a form of ritual humiliation for them outside. They have to sit in a tester ride seat in full public view: get a green light and you are good to go, get a red one and you’re off…
The snow-capped houses and shops of Hogsmeade village
Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Castle home of the signature ride - unlucky if you're overweight
Souvenir wand, it picks you for $25

Five-star pet peeves

For this post, I’ve teamed up with travel writing colleague, Jill Starley-Grainger  to come up with our pet peeves about luxury hotels. Jill has come up with eight of the offerings, myself with two and the whole post has to be read over our two websites (well, we have to drive traffic you know).

Whether you’ve saved up for that luxury trip of a lifetime or you wouldn’t dream of bedding down in anything less than a five-star, these hotel hassles can make your holiday more irritating.

Breakfast (by JSG)
If I’m paying through the nose to stay in your hotel, the least you can do is provide breakfast at a reasonable price, if not free. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been presented with the breakfast bill (the price is rarely displayed as it’s often a vast help-yourself buffet with additional hot-food menu), only to discover that the croissant and coffee I had have cost as much as the GDP of some small African countries. (PS If you’re going to charge through the nose for the buffet, at least allow a reasonably priced non-buffet menu for those with small appetites.)
Climate control (By JSG)
I now know to pack my flannel PJs if I’m going to a balmy tropical island, and my flimsiest nightdress if I’m going skiing. Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean I want it to feel like a freezer inside, and vice versa. What’s more, the air conditioning and heating controls often do not respond to any commands, other than on or off, and sometimes, not even that. Brrrr…
Villa / resort guide (by JSG)
How do I work the television? What are the channels? Where do I find the spare blankets? How do I turn off the fucking outside lights you’ve put on with my turn-down service and that shine through my window all night? How do I use that ridiculously expensive espresso machine in my room? Where is the shop that sells deodorant? How do I find the spa? Etc, etc. Just give me a map of the resort, a manual to the villa or room, and some idea of what’s on offer throughout, including all the restaurant and spa menus (with prices!).
Toiletries (By JSG)
Conditioner, people, conditioner! I know very few women who do not use conditioner regularly, if not every time they wash their hair, and a heck of a lot of men use it daily, too. But how many five-star hotels provide it? I can think of only two, and of those, only one provided good conditioner. And also, what’s with the crappy little plastic bottles? Big refillable ones with pumps to easily extract the product are far preferred. OK, some people want to take home their little plastic toiletries, but chances are, those of us in five-stars have a million of these throw-away two-use freebies already and would just prefer nice products in nice refillable bottles. For take-home, sell large versions in your shop!
Weight-sensitive mini bars (by WoJ)
Why is it that posh hotels cannot be satisfied with getting you to break the bank to stay there but seemingly have to find each and every way to screw as much cash out of you as possible? (See our entries on wifi and breakfast.) But of all the low-down, dirty tricks they can pull to squeeze that last cent out of you, the weight-sensitive mini bar – where you get charged when you lift the product up, even if you replace it in the fridge – has to be the worst.  Let’s say I’m prepared to pay the ludicrous price for the privilege of serving myself the smallest measure of spirit known to mankind (should I tip myself I wonder?), why can I not pick up a bottle, read the label and see if I fancy it or not without being charged? How does this system work any better than having the maid simply see if a bottle of booze has gone the next morning? Its only use is to annoy the hell out of guests. Way to go when trying to attract repeat visitors, hoteliers.

For our other five peeves, see Jill’s site:  http://uktraveleditor.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/top-10-five-star-hotel-pet-peeves

Follow Jill on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/UKtraveleditor

Just one bottle and latest wi-fi

Nice to see that the blogosphere continues to exert pressure on hotel groups ridiculous insistence to keep charging people for wi-fi… London Hotel Insight has done a great round up of who’s doing what here. Well done to the site editor Rajul Chande for keeping up the pressure.

On another campaigning point, Tyson Benton, who used to work for Getty Images, has launched a site that gives a photographic record of his current trip through South America.

Aside from being full of amazing pics of his journey, Tyson is also promoting a serious issue – the overuse of plastic bottles that jam up landfill sites around the world. On his 18 month journey on the back of a 125cc motorcycle, he is using just one filter bottle manufactured by EcoUseable.

Well done Tyson.

You can check out his site here http://justonebottle.tumblr.com/

A round up on the free hotel wi-fi campaign

Nice to see things seem to keep moving with the free hotel wi-fi campaign but I thought it was high time for a little round up of where we are and some tips for seeking out that all-important free connection.

If you are on Twitter, you can search for wi-fi hotspots by using the hashtag #freewifi. People are constantly updating and Tweeting about hotels, airports and even McDonalds that offer free wi-fi.

The fact that even McDonalds can see the worth of offering connectivity to guests dissolves most of the arguments hotels have against offering the service. A PR spokesperson for one of the major hotel groups admitted off the record they are now pushing for it to become standard across all their brands saying: ‘McDonalds offering it and us not is just embarrassing.’

If you want a list of hotels in London that offer free wi-fi, then check out the website London Hotels Insight’s list here

Sign up to www.iprefer.com to get free internet in all Preferred Hotel Group’s 700+ hotels. Give them your business if you can.

Indigo and Staybridge Suites from the IHG portfolio offer free wi-fi as brand standard.

Some comments on hotels that offer free wi-fi can be seen on my campaign page here

All Shangri La hotels offer free wi-fi. Give them your business if you can.

Best Western Hotels offer free wi-fi as brand standard. Give them your business if you can.

Despite constant requests from me for information, the Accor Group of hotels, they have yet to get back to me on which of their properties offer free wi-fi and which don’t. It’s outrageous that a company can just ignore a journalist’s requests.

You can also find free hotspots through this site www.free-hotspot.com

IF A HOTEL DOES NOT OFFER WI-FI FOR FREE OR AT MINIMAL COST, DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR BUSINESS

Hotel wi-fi, the latest news…

Support keeps pouring in for the free hotel wi-fi campaign with more messages via email and comments added to the site.

Heather Turner of Forfeng Designs in Connecticut, USA, sent this message:

“As both a frequent traveler and someone who deals with many people in the lodging industry, I wholly support the idea of free WIFI in lodging. I refuse to stay anywhere that charges for it and I think it scare/detracts from many guests booking at places that charge for it.”

And Mr Rajul Chande, Editor, LondonHotelsInsight.com who has launched a sister London campaign after reading about worldofjames.com’s has issued an open letter to hoteliers in the British capital with some bloody good reasoning as to why hotel’s shouldn’t charge for connectivity.

You can read it here:

http://londonhotelsinsight.com/2009/11/11/free-hotel-wifi-an-open-letter-to-hoteliers/

Free wi-fi campaign update

Given I was at an award ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night and they are still charging £50 for 24 hour internet access, I thought I’d update on the free wi-fi campaign.

A nice message has just come in from Gina who says:

‘Our family has been traveling for the past year and two months,  mainly in South America.   We found an abundance of hostels all over South America with free WiFi access.

I can’t remember being charged once for WiFi access in South America- either they had it or they didn’t.

We have been back in the US for a little over 2 months, still traveling around.  We have stayed mostly in mid-range hotels and have found across the board that the Choice/Clarion/Comfort Hotels don’t charge for WiFi, nor do Days Inn.

We grab a hotel discount guide when we enter a new state, which gives hotels an opportunity to advertise their rates and services.  Interestingly enough, the low-end chains like Super 8 and Motel 6 usually offer free internet as well (although we haven’t stayed in these chains).  It is usually the higher end hotels like Marriot that charge for this service.

I agree with you that if they have WiFi in the hotel, they should offer it as part of their rate.  Like you, free WiFi is at the top of our list of requirements and plays a significant role in where we choose to stay.   Good luck with your campaign!

Gina’

Another message has come in from Rajul Chande who is the editor of LondonHotelsInsight.com.

He’s put together a list of hotels that offer free wi-fi in London on his blog…

Check it out here…

http://londonhotelsinsight.com/2009/11/06/the-good-guys-top-rated-london-hotels-with-free-wifi/

and keep them coming please!!