Technology

The hotel industry needs an upgrade

Patrick Stafford /

I travelled up to Brisbane for the very first time last week to attend a conference. I was left technologically underwhelmed.

I wish I could say I’d visited the sunny capital city before, but I’ve just never had the chance. Fortunately, the NAB Small Business Summit gave me a good excuse.

The experience was great, for the most part. The weather was nice, even in the dead of winter, the taxi drivers very friendly and the traffic minimal.

But my trip wasn’t entirely successful. When it came to the hotel, there was a lot to be desired.

Now, the hotel itself was perfectly fine. The room was spacious and everything was crystal clean. Nothing was out of order. But checking in just made me realise how far behind Australia is when it comes to the hotel industry.

Being told I couldn’t check-in after 10pm was a shock in itself. But imagine my surprise when I inquired about the Wi-Fi – not only did they not have free access to wireless internet, they didn’t have wireless internet at all.

Like, at all.

The only access to the internet I had was through a wired connection, which cost $20 for 24 hours. An extra $20 at a hotel that already cost an arm and a leg. I used my phone instead.

From what I gather, this isn’t uncommon. Friends and colleagues tell me it’s rare in Australia to have access to free Wi-Fi at a hotel. And I know from experience smaller hotels won’t have 24-hour receptions.

Let’s be frank – this is pathetic.

Leave the reception issue aside – what kind of hotel doesn’t offer Wi-Fi of some sort? Last month while travelling through the United States, I stayed in a Holiday Inn in rural Ohio. I’m talking the middle of nowhere – the next town over was even called Hicksville. Even there I was able to access free Wi-Fi, and it was pretty quick, too. Equivalent to the speeds I’d get at home on my ADSL2+ connection.

And not only that, the front desk was staffed 24 hours a day.

I don’t like to use this argument a lot, but come on, this is 2013. Internet access should be mandatory at all hotels, and WiFi should just be part of the package. I don’t even mind having to pay a fee, but not having it at all? It’s not just bad service, it’s weird.

Now, one could make a cost-based argument here.

But the lack of internet access reflects a misunderstanding of how important web connections are in the 21st century – they’re everything. If I lose my phone for a day, I can do fine. Lose the internet for a week? It disrupts your day-to-day life and ruins your productivity. Suddenly, one minute moving money around on a net banking app becomes an hour’s trip to the bank.

If a hotel doesn’t have Wi-Fi, I’m not going to stay there. End of story.

Clearly the issue doesn’t just lie with the hotel industry, (it’s simply the target of my frustration). But the principle remains – a lack of access to the internet reflects a clear miscalculation of what that internet access is really worth.

Don’t make the same mistake.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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