Technology

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

All I want for Christmas

Surprised but chuffed to be asked for my recommendations for Christmas presents from the huge selection available to people flying to and from Heathrow over the holidays.

The airport has launched a gift website www.heathrowgiftlist.com that showcases some of the items you can get at tax free prices on the way in and out of the airport.

You can also win your own gift list in a prize draw if you think you can do better than my choices

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/

World Travel Market day two – random musings

Slovenia has announced a new cross border initiative with an Italian and an Austrian region. It seems a but strange to have a country teaming up with regions… Did the whole of Austria and Italy not want to join the playingtogether.com campaign where Slovenia is joined by Italy’s Fruilli Venezia Giulia region and Austria’s Carinthia www.playingtogether.com

I interviewed Dubai’s tourism director for the UK and Ireland Ian Scott and he put up a fiery defence of recent attacks on the Emirate. With regard to the infamous sex on the beach case he said: ‘We have 1million Brits coming here a year if you include cruise passengers. You can’t expect them all to be trouble free visits. It’s a bit like the X Factor, everyone is going to have an opinion.’

TUI’s CEO Dermot Blastland was as entertaining as ever at a seminar on what travel will be like in 2023. After jokingly admitting he was getting cabin crew to drop pounds in an effort to cut down flight weights and hence fuel costs he said it is likely the package giant will stop working with hotels that don’t meet certain environmental targets.

How come so many celebs turn up to the show but no one gets told about them? Apparently, Michael Caine and Dannii Minogue were floating round on a couple of the stand but no one seemed to know any details.

I really enjoyed another night of not going to random events but learning more about social media at travelblogcamp (www.travelblogcamp.co.uk) organised by consumer blog www.travel-rants.com. While it felt a little like crashing the school chess club thanks to other  people’s vaster knowledge of the nerdier side of travel, there were some interesting points made… If there was one thing I was surprised by it was that  those who were not corporate bloggers were looking at ways of monetising their blogs. Does no one do it for the love of it? A vow from me? I may try and make money elsewhere on the net but you will never see ads or affiliates on worldofjames.com

Get your own back on the baggage handlers

Anyone who has waited ages for cases at an airport will get perverse extra pleasure from a new game launched by Intercontinental Hotels Group.

The game allows you to vent your frustraton by firing suitcases at handlers and trying to  knock them down like skittles and allows IHG to get people to sign up for its rewards programme. Free flights are on offer for the best scores.

Click here to play Suitcase Skittles

Hurrah for some hotels that don't charge for wi-fi

Fellow blogger Frank Camel tells me of a ridiculous recent wi-fi experience when staying at the Morgan Hotel in New York, sister to London’s  Sanderson and Miami’s Delano.

He paid $600 for accommodation a night and was then charges $10 per day per connection, so two lap tops cost $20 a day. (see his review here)

The good guys

Nonetheless, I have found some hotel groups that speak my language. Shangri-la has offered free wi-fi in its hotels around the world with their CEO Madhu Rao saying: ‘Getting connected while on the road is the number one priority of our business travellers and many of our valued customers view Internet access as absolutely crucial. Offering free Internet is further evidence of our commitment to Shangri-La’s service to our customers during these uncertain times. No longer considered a luxury, guests are demanding high-speed Internet access as an essential room requirement and as something that should be included as a standard service by an international hotel group.’

Another big bravo goes to Best Western. Their spokesperson says: ‘All Best Western hotels as part of their membership criteria, must offer free high speed internet access, whether it be wifi, or through a broadband connection in all guest rooms and public area. As part of our quality assessment of the hotels we also check the strength and speed of the connection to ensure it is reaching all rooms (which in an 18th Century castle with buttress walls is easier said than done). As all Best Western hotels are fully independent businesses, any hotel that does not offer free high speed internet access will risk being rejected from membership.’

It looks as though we could be getting somewhere on commitments from other companies too. TUI Travel UK have pledged to explore offering free wi-fi at all their exclusive hotels. Their spokesperson says:

Thomson and First Choice (part of TUI Travel UK) work with hoteliers in different ways; some properties, such as our Sensatori properties and Holiday Villages are exclusive to Thomson and First Choice respectively, while others we contract rooms alongside other operators. Your campaign is certainly of interest and we’re pleased to say that this is also something we’re keen to offer our customers in those properties that are exclusive to us. For example our Sensatori Crete and Holiday Village Turkey offer free wi-fi in the lobby areas, with discussions on-going as to how to roll this out wider.  Of course, an ideal solution would be to offer this in every room at every exclusive property and this is something our teams are exploring further. ‘

The not so good guys

I’m a bit disappointed though with both Premier Inn and Travelodge – both of which follow the nickel and dime model of charging.

Premier’s spokesperson says: ‘Premier Inn offers guests great quality, yet low cost accommodation where prices start from as little as £29 per night for a family room. It is our policy to keep prices as low as possible to improve value for the guest. Therefore, rather than increasing the overall room cost to cover WiFi for all; guests only pay for what they use. If a customer requires WIFi they may purchase vouchers from reception costing from £5 per hour.’

While Travelodge, currently offering £10 rooms until January 3 has an incremental charge of £5 for one hour, £10 for 24 hours, £20 for one week and £30 for one month.

I still don’t buy this idea of not offering it free as it increases the cost of the room. Even if wi-fi maintenance costs more than £100 a day – which it clearly doesn’t, in a 100 room hotel that was even half full that would be £2 extra a day.

If anyone knows details of how much setting up a wifi system in a hotel costs and wants to share them anonymously, then please get in touch…

If you support the campaign, leave a comment

The pilot who forgot to land and two cool new online travel tools

flightcasterI’ve heard some daft excuses for delays, but the pilot forgetting to land the plane?

Apparently, it happened last Wednesday when a Northwest flight from San Diego to Minneapolis-St Paul overflew its destination by 150 miles until the pilots either were told by air traffic control or realised their error and turned back. The flight was delayed by an hour and a quarter!

I found out about the unprecedented error from a cool new and relatively new flight delay prediction website, www.flightcaster.com. The site uses algorithms that takes into account past performance, current weather on departure and arrival and what other aircraft are in the sky to predict whether a flight will be delayed and by how long. The claim to be able to predict delays six hours ahead of an airline announcement.

skystatusAnother nice social networking tool I also recently discovered is Lufthansa’s My Sky Status that sends sends altitude, location, departure and arrival updates automatically to your Facebook and Twitter pages. Add the airline, flight number, date and destination and the site links to your chosen social network to provide the updates.

Blocking Twitter spam

About six weeks ago, just after first joining Twitter, I naively clicked on a link sent to me by someone I follow asking me to join their ‘mafia family’.

As I new Tweeter I was keen to impress and join in the game and signed up, only to find the Mafia Family Game began to direct message people I was following inviting them to also join the game on their behalf.

By going to twitter.com/account/connections, I managed to sever the connection to the Mafia Family site and, while most people were very understanding about it, others seemed to think I had burned their first born at the stake.

While it was all mildly annoying and not a little embarrassing, it was probably not the end of the world – but there does seem to have been an increase in Twitter spam over the last few weeks, mainly from people I know offering me untold riches which I know they don’t have, but on the upside at least makes a change from the latest  Nigerian businessman or Cameroonian princes who wants to share their millions with me.

The latest attempt came this morning from the profile @MariCrosbykbr who simply had tweeted my user name alongside a shortened URL. Sure enough it took me to an adult site called Sex In Your City – the last thing I need mrsworldofjames to see in my browsing history with me now working from home and our wedding just six weeks away.

While Twitter’s Spam Watch has long been giving good advice on how to deal with irksome Tweeters (follow @spam for more), the launch of a new ‘report as spam’ feature to Twitter last week is a more than welcome addition to the site.

To use it, when logged into your Twitter account, you can now report a user direct from their profile page. In the actions section on the sidebar there is now a ‘report as spam’ link.

A pop up message will ask for confirmation, just click it and the user will be investigated by Twitter.

For those who use Tweetdeck, spam can be reported by hovering over a user’s profile pic in the bottom right corner and clicking on Other actions/User/Block and report spam.

It’s always useful to refresh your knowledge of Twitter rules too, see here for the list though I wonder where the one on ‘impersonation’ leaves all the fake Richard Bransons on the site!

One thing to remember to NEVER do is RT a spammed message… it could see you inadvertently banned.

Campaign For Free Hotel Wi-Fi launched

wifi-campaignMy colleague, friend and business partner Kieran Meeke has just been in Australia for a couple of weeks and keeping in touch has been a nightmare largely thanks to a tight schedule and the lack of free wi-fi access he could find while traveling.

I’m getting a bit tired of all this so am launching the worldofjames.com Campaign For Free Hotel Wi-Fi and I’ll be lobbying hotels to start offering a service that is more meaningful than a fruitbowl or slice of chocolate for free…

Full details can be found at Campaign For Free Hotel Wi-Fi