Hotels have tried a variety of tactics to lure customers in over the years with special offers, extra benefits, room upgrades, and more. But customers are largely looking at two specific factors: Room rate and Internet costs. One hotel chain has finally caught on to and taken this to heart. They're making in-room internet free.
More than 4,400 hotels worldwide operate under one of the brands managed by The Accor group. Of those, nearly 500 operate in the Asia-Pacific region and those hotels will be fee-free for Internet by the end of 2012. The move comes in response to the Accor Asia Pacific Business Traveler Survey 2012 results in which nearly half the customers indicated that the benefit was one of the most important factors in their booking decision.
They survey reveals other regional tendencies among customers, with the Chinese market favoring loyalty program rewards and the Australians citing hotel location as most significant. But across the entire market free WiFi connectivity is represented strongly enough that the hotel chain has made the decision to offer it for free rather quickly. With business travelers making up more than half the company's guests in the region, the move certainly makes sense for Accor.
While many of the company's economy and midscale brands (e.g. Ibis, Novotel, Mercure) already offer the free internet benefit to guests the upscale and luxury brands (e.g. Pullman, Sofitel) do not. The luxury hotels, in fact, often charge a significant premium for the internet connections on top of the premium nightly rates. That irony is not lost on many customers. The common belief has been that expense accounts will pay the fees anyways; this latest survey seems to indicate that the tide is turning on this front, with business customers now looking at all the details of room costs, not just the published nightly rate.
This move is great for customers in the Asia-Pacific region but Accor has not extended to more broadly to their properties in other parts of the world. That is unfortunate as it is hard to believe that only customers in Asia value free internet connectivity as part of their hotel benefits. Perhaps it is time for Accor to run similar surveys in other regions so those customers can similarly speak up and indicate that desire.
Photo credit: Laptop in hotel room via Shutterstock