Hotels open their doors to Internet access for guests

Strategies

December 18, 2005|By ALFRED BORCOVER | ALFRED BORCOVER,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.

Walk into a coffee shop, airport or hotel lobby, and invariably someone is tapping away on a laptop. It's all about connectivity 24 / 7 / 365. And, if it's not a laptop people are glued to, it's a wireless BlackBerry. Or a cell phone.

Connectivity has become an obsession for some, a necessity for others.

No wonder hotels are wired to provide their guests high-speed Internet access (HSIA for short) from the comfort of their rooms -- normally for a price. Or public spaces with Wi-Fi, short for wireless fidelity, a wireless means of connecting to the Internet.

Recently, Radisson Hotels & Resorts said it would provide its guests in more than 200 hotels in North America with complimentary high-speed Internet access starting Jan. 1.

"High-speed Internet access is no longer a novelty in hotel guest rooms," said Bjorn Gullaksen, the chain's executive vice president, in announcing the move. "It is among the most important amenities our guests have come to expect."

Radisson-related properties in Europe, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Africa already offer free HSIA in guest rooms. The free access is scheduled to expand to Latin America in 2007.

From high-end to budget properties, most hotels and motels offer Internet connectivity. And, if properties don't offer connections today, it's on the horizon.

Here's a rundown of Internet service that major hotel chains and groups provide to keep their guests cyber-linked.

From Atlanta to Tokyo, 71 of 72 Four Seasons properties have in-room high-speed Internet connections, as well as experts to help if needed. The service is available hourly, daily and weekly, and varies by market, said a Four Seasons spokeswoman.

A high-speed, in-room connection typically costs about $10 a day, but in some it's free. In Chicago, for example, the Four Seasons offers complimentary high-speed Internet service in its guest rooms and free Wi-Fi in its seventh-floor lobby.

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, a Four Seasons property, also provides free in-room Internet connections and Wi-Fi in its lobby. Ritz-Carlton, with 57 hotels worldwide (35 in cities, the remainder resorts), provides Internet connections in all guest rooms, with charges ranging from about $30 a day in Istanbul to complimentary in such places as Sarasota, Fla. Generally, though, the cost is $9.95 for 24 hours. By the end of 2006, all Ritz-Carltons should be offering Wi-Fi service, a spokeswoman said.

High-speed Internet access is available in guest rooms, public space and conference areas in all Hilton Hotels. The access can be either hard-wired or Wi-Fi, a Hilton spokeswoman said. Costs vary, she added, but the typical charge is $9.95 per 24-hour period.

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn, part of the Hilton portfolio, offer high-speed access in guest rooms and public areas for free. Two other Hilton brands -- Embassy Suites Hotels and Doubletree -- have HSIA at rates that do not exceed $9.95 a day. Costs are market driven.

All Hyatt Hotels provide either wired or wireless access in guest rooms, and many provide both, a spokesman said, adding that nearly 85 Hyatts have T-Mobile HotSpots installed in their public areas. The Hyatt standard daily access fee is $9.95 for a 24-hour use. Hyatt's international hotels have different access fees, available in 15-minute, 30-minute, 60- minute and 24-hour increments.

InterContinental Hotels Group said that high-speed Internet access is available at about 2,700 of its North American hotels. Charges at InterContinental and Crowne Plaza hotels and resorts vary by market. Examples: Crowne Plaza London, 14.95 pounds ($25.85 U.S.) for both wired (in-room) and wireless (public spaces) for 24-hour service. InterContinental Montreal, $14.50 Canadian ($12.43 U.S.) plus tax for 24-hour wired and wireless service.

HSIA is free at other InterContinental group properties -- Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites.

Marriott International says in-room high-speed Internet access is essentially 100 percent installed in the U.S. and Canada and nearly complete worldwide, a total of 2,700 properties.

"The overwhelming majority of our hotels offer a hard-wired connection, and more than 800 also offer Wi-Fi in guest rooms," a spokesman said. In Marriott, JW Marriott and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, there's a $9.95 bundled package that includes HSIA, unlimited local phone calls and long-distance calls within the U.S. At Marriott's other brands -- Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites -- high-speed Internet connections are free.

Each of the 11 Sofitel properties in North America has a different twist for Internet access and usage, but the one constant is a $9.95 charge per 24-hour period, a spokesman said. For example, the Sofitel Lafayette Square in Washington offers free wireless access in the lobby and second-floor public spaces.

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