Wired? Maybe Not

Kenneth Shapiro I read an article the other day that hit on one of my pet peeves as a traveler. The story, “Where’s the Wi-Fi?,” ran in National Geographic Traveler (Jan./Feb. 2006), and it discussed the way many hotels promise high-speed or wireless Internet, but fail to actually deliver on that promise

By: Kenneth Shapiro

I read an article the other day that hit on one of my pet peeves as a traveler. The story, “Where’s the Wi-Fi?,” ran in National Geographic Traveler (Jan./Feb. 2006), and it discussed the way many hotels promise high-speed or wireless Internet, but fail to actually deliver on that promise.

It seems this problem is widespread throughout the hotel industry, and it should be a concern for agents. Even when staying at upscale hotels, I find there’s a lot of confusion on the part of hotel managers regarding what “wireless” and “high-speed” really means to guests. And this confusion is not limited to any geographic region either. As hotels realize that Wi-Fi is increasingly important to guests, it seems like more and more properties jump into the marketplace with claims of wireless and high-speed connectivity, even when that connection is not fully developed yet. Sometimes the problem is that the hotel does have Wi-Fi, but only in an extremely limited area or via a very weak signal that is virtually useless. Of course, that fact is almost never relayed to guests or to agents.

This puts travel agents in a tough position because sending clients who care about the Internet to a hotel that claims to have access but doesn’t, can make the agent look bad. And there are a growing number of clients that do care about Internet connections: A recent study conducted by Holiday Inn Select found that 78 percent of respondents want Wi-Fi connectivity.

In the National Geographic article, the author, Christopher Elliott, provides a few tips for identifying a bona fide Wi-Fi claim from a false one, including using independent Web sites, such as www.jiwire.com or www.hotspot-locations.com. One expert mentioned in the article even keeps his own Wi-Fi blog at www.wifi-guy.com.

Ideally hotel managers and executives will eventually see the value in making certain their Internet connection lives up to the billing, but until that happens agents need to keep on top of this issue. It may seem like a small matter to you, but getting your facts straight on this subject is just another way agents can advocate for their clients in the real world, as well as in the virtual world. K.S.

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