Getting Access

August 31, 2007

We know guest room technology is very important to our guests.  A couple of months ago, I blogged about some new technology we're installing in our full service hotels.  It's an LCD television with a connectivity panel, so you can watch and listen to digital devices through the television.  Judging from the reaction we're getting since the marketing and rollout began, it's going to be very popular.

In response to that blog, a lot of you sent me comments asking why we charge for high speed Internet access in some brands but not in others.  I know it's a question our competitors also hear a lot.

In our full service hotels in the U.S. and in Canada, we will bundle, on request, high-speed with unlimited local and long distance phone calls for a flat rate.  We responded to business travelers who worried that a cell call might be dropped in the middle of an important business conversation, and who also wanted a predictable, all-in-one price.

Meanwhile, high-speed and WiFi are complimentary at Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites.  A couple of those brands had already offered free local calling.

When we introduced complimentary broadband three years ago, demand for high-speed was just building.  Back then, the economy was weak and occupancy was down.  Many hotels in the moderate tier were looking for a competitive advantage.

Times have changed now.  Today, nearly every business traveler demands fast access to the Internet.  They're also downloading and uploading larger files.  And many of our hotels are often sold out.  The combination can put a strain on the system.  That's why our approved high-speed vendors must be able to manage bandwidth so connections and downloads remain very fast.

Soon, we'll begin replacing high-speed connection boxes in our hotels.  They'll be more reliable and they'll reduce guest complaints.  But providing high-speed connections and service improvements must be paid for by each hotel, and it's very costly.  It affects the bottom lines of our hotel investors-and, as I have mentioned in the past, we don't own our hotels, we manage them for their investor owners.

Occasionally, we hear rumors that Marriott, or one of its competitors, is about to make high-speed free in full service hotels.  In the end, they are just rumors.  I know this is a controversial topic, but that's why I blog, to have a frank conversation with our guests.

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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Bill,
I've read your comments above regarding your need to charge (a lot) for high speed internet at your
full service hotels. Sorry, but I've been in business long enough to know when I'm being gouged and have become very good at avoiding those brands that engage in that practice. Marriott is on that list. I know that ,in the future, you will see the foley of your reasons for these charges and they will go away. When that happens I will likely return.

Merry Christmas

Mr Marriott,

The iBahn internet service is going to lose you my business.

I have recently become a loyal member of the Marriott rewards program and have begun spending a significant amount of time in the Marriott brands. I had made plans to continue this relationship which would include meaningful business and personal travel over the foreseeable future. In fact I have been reviewing a contract to purchase shares in the Marriott Vacation Club to deepen this relationship and imagine building family traditions around using the program. I have become an advocate of Marriott to my friends and colleagues, frequently defending you from the 'hiltoners'. I had assumed that my poor internet experiences were one time occasions but as it became more common I researched it and found that this is common problem and unfortunately effects all of your brands. As a result, unless serious changes are made swiftly, I will have no choice but to search out a new partner for accommodations, perhaps even join the 'hiltoners'. I feel not only the inconvenience of changing the rewards programs, loyalty credit card program, time share purchase plans but also the deeper embarrassment of having lent my name to the brand so vehemently that I will have to abandon for such a basic expectation.

I hope that you are able to work this out, unfortunately I simply cannot responsibly choose a hotel that does not afford me the ability work and communicate at full capacity while on sight.

Thank you for your time and attention.

It is one thing to be charged for Internet access, it is a completely different issue to pay a high fee and receive unusable Internet service. I wish Marriott would publish a list of hotels serviced by Ibahn so I could be warned in advance and not select those properties. I am tired of calling their support lines to report poor Internet performance. I regularly get better Internet service connecting through my cell phone.

Ibahn is a black eye on a great hotel chain that prides itself on customer service. Please replace this vendor.

After more than 1000 nights in full service Marriotts I am fed up with these extra fees. I now subscribe to Internet service via a wireless carrier. But having to do this diminishes the experience of staying at Marriott.
Why not charge for towels, toilet flushes, showers, bedding changes, number of lights used, hours watching TV, wake-up calls, etc.
If costs can be built into room rates for Courtyard and other brands, then it is easy to build them into full service Marriotts.

The majority of people staying at FS Marriott properties are business travelers. Business travelers expenses are paid for by the company, so most of the travelers don't care. Their company will pay for it in the end.
The majority of the people staying at the mid and lower tier properties pay for the bill themselves. They will not pay extra for internet. Thus, Marriott and other chains won't charge extra for this service.
See the difference? This is why Full Service Marriott properties can and will always charge extra-- because they can with little pushback from the customer. It's just good business sense.
I stay 175+ nights a year on business at FS Marriott properties. I feel nickel and dimed often. But in the end I pay without a fuss because in the end I'm not paying the bill.
I never stay at a FS Marriott unless it's a reward stay. I won't be nickel and dimed if I'm having to pay the bill.

Mr.Marriott,
I believe the internet like many of the luxuries of the old (like AC,Cable TV etc) has nowadays become a necessity. The modern traveller today expects it be a part of his hotel package. At check in, you tell him there is a charge for it and there is look of disgust on their face. It is something we should consider complimentary for our guests especially with technology advancing.

I am new to this blog, and it was good to see that I am not the only one who really would like to see WiFi internet access included in the room cost. I love Marriott full service hotels, but it always bugs me to have to pay $10 a day for internet access. Often I just want to hop on the net for 2 or 3 minutes to check a flight or something, and paying $10 for that really grabs me. My feelings about Marriott would be much better without this irritant!

In addition to all this excellent technology I would like to suggest an upgrade to the basic telephone. Often I work on the phone and computer at the same time. Ideally I would like the guest room phone to have the ability to connect a headset or earpiece. If I am going to pay the daily Wired For Business fee, I would like to be more comfortable on the phone while working on my computer. I would also like to be mobile an move around the room while on the phone. Most hotels do not have this yet. On ocassion I have seen a wireless phone, but that is extremely rare. Thank you.

Please just call it what it is Bill, additional profit. It's OK this is the U.S., and you are here to make money. But please don't tell me that by charging every guest in a sold out hotel, you are somehow improving the user experience... That excuse, Bill, does not hold water... Speaking of water... Now let's discuss pay toilets, after all that Infrastructure is very costly to put in, and in a sold out hotel, charging per flush could improve the user experience... yada yada yada

The irony of this discussion is that I avoid the full scale Marriott and usually choose the courtyard or residence inn. Why? Ease of connectivity ( more plugs on the desk - looking forward much to your new connectivity panel ); reliability of HSI; and customer service overall (need something for the room like foam pillows or an electrical extension cord? - takes 10 minutes in a CY, and still up to an hour at the so called "full service". )

As as Platinum member for this past 4 years I can't get over this one.
The rates charged are insane! To the point that I've added a high-speed modem to my my cellular plan. For what the Marriott charges for a week I get a month's worth of coverage.
Why not do something similar to what United Airlines does: At say 100 or 150 nights a year I get to choose a gift-say free high speed for the next year.

so much time is spent on futuristic things like computer hook ups and the like. I would like to tell you what I THINK YOU SHOULD concentrate on.
1. How come it is so hard to find a nice hotel with a chair like a LA-Z-Boy (or other) recliner?
They are certainly not high tech. One chain starting with an H used to promise a comfy chair in each room. They no longer offer this.
I want a nice chair like I have at home. I want a TV set that works, doesn't have to be super fancy or high tech. I want some cable stations that I am used to like:
Turner Classic Movies
mindless sitcoms on any station are fine too.
I will pay extra for the above. How hard is it to get a nice chair?
jon
jondc9@aol.com

I agree with several of the others who have mentioned a single internet charge. Or, perhaps internet only. I don't need the unlimited phone calls. There is one hotel-I think in Schaumburg, that has 2 options, internet only for $4 per day, or the full package. $4 is easier to swallow. At least consider making free internet available company wide for Platinum guests!
Just an idea. Thanks for your blog!

I'm glad to see this issue has been addressed. And, based on the comments, I've changed my views since my original question I posted here back in June.
I now think that some sort of fee is reasonable. Since not everyone uses this service, I understand the logic. But, I think $10-$20 per night is too high--it feels like I'm being gouged. I think a reasonable, per stay charge would be much more fair. As Jason says, I'm paying as much in a week as we do for 3 months of DSL at home. And, as Bill Marriott said, broadband has entered the mainstream and, for most business travellers, become a 'need to have' vs. a 'nice to have'.

I agree with the previous poster who said that a single charge per stay would be better received. Given the choice between properties if I am staying for 4 or 5 days, I would stay at the property that offers it for free instead of paying an extra hundred, or use the free service offered somewhere else in town to do my computer work.
This should be considered a cost of doing business, just like upgrading your hotels and such. If you charged everyone 99 cents more a night at every property, nobody would notice (or complain) and you'd get the necessary revenue you desire.

I can see the need to charge, but I think a per stay charge rather than nightly would be more reasonable. In one week at a full service Marriott, I pay what I pay at home for 2 to 3 months of high speed internet!

This is definitely an interesting Wi-Fi debate. One things I've found is that although many hotels charge "their best customers" for use of the internet, the quality of service is superior than the motel down the street that has it for free. I believe the added cost also buys, to some extent, additional quality in service. Networks are extremely reliable, and fast. While we would all love free quality wi-fi, I think the old saying "you get what you pay for" really applies here.

I completely understand the debate on this from both sides. I guess my question is, do you pay for HSI at home? Why should everything be free when you tavel on business? I'm just glad they offer it.

Deear Bill
Wanted to tell you that I have been looking at your websites and services around the world. Am impressed with the
clarity of operation of the website to provide information, check rates, SEE the
hotels amenities - even a rates calculator which is most helpful. Most of all you have a good Senior discount which has allowed us to come from Australia to Hawaii. Since booking that I looked at some other destinations for next year and the rate calculator was great for turning Euros and Pounds into $AUD.
Having looked for at your hotels for some special places in UK area 0 looked very good - would be great if you could get something in the S. West including Cornwall and the Channel Isles. Because as we continue to search - nothing seems to match the ease of your website to use and find information. Nor do they have the Seniors discount factor. As a member and a fit and healthy Senior - we want to continue travelling to various places such
as French Polynesia - I could not find a Marriot there either - but maybe you can tell me if there is.
Glad your making elegant choices about the types of properties - the interiors, bedding all make a difference, along with attractive restaurants.
Let me know if you do get a Marriot into any of the places we suggested in this email.
JLH

Mr Marriott:
W/ respect, Myself (and others) believe you are nickle and diming your best customers by charging for use of high-speed internet at Marriott's. We pay from $150-$250 a night at the Marriott, however you still charge us $10 for the internet. I can stay at a $65 a night Fairfield and get it free. Your excuses don't hold water.

Bill,
Did you read the recent Washington Post article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/28/AR2007082801990_pf.html) on how other countries manage to offer higher broadband speeds at a lesser rate.Maybe thats the answer, Broadband becomes cheaper so all Marriott hotels can offer it for free.
I know a hotel has to do what it has to do to keep costs under control. I personally would not pay 30 pounds for Internet connectivity at the Marriott County hall in London. I stayed there recently.
My hope is that it will become cost effective for all the Marriott properties to offer Free Internet or at least bundle it into the room rate.
Free Internet or otherwise I will look for a Marriott property to stay while travelling.

Respectfully - Marriott full-service hotels should stop charging for high speed internet service. Yes, it is an extra cost for the hotels, but so are the new Revive beds and flat screen TV's. Marriott full-service hotels are being spruced to to be more appealing. Complimentary high speed internet is VERY appealing. I think Marriot has done a good job in offering guests what they want. Free high speed internet is something most guests want and would apreciate.

Hi,
I first want to thank you for this great blog. It is updated often, with very interesting content and materials. It is also very direct, meaning far for the average PR statement. My sincere congratulations for that.
Regarding this very particular topic, I tend to disagree. Working myself as an IT around the hospitality business, I do realize that the whole broadband platform is costly. I do feel very frustrated when I have to pay it on a full service Marriott, when I could have it for free at Courtyard.
One more time, the setup, the maintenance and the bandwidth are costly, and I will not argue about that. But I think it's all about standards. What about the pool? Must be quite expensive to build and maintain, but it's a great feature while away from home. The rate for in room broadband is by the way often outrageous, whatever the brand is.
You should consider this experience in Europe: Some years ago, Radisson SAS committed to deploy in room free broadband, as a standard, in every single properties. Trust me: it was quite expensive for hotel's owners! Radisson SAS is by the way quite upscale, business focused. This feature is very popular now, and it gives the brand quite an advantage when it's time to select a property. I prefer spending more for the room itself.
Best Regards,
Raphael

Lots of friends balk at paying for a full-price room and then paying for Internet access, when "It's free at the cheapo motel across the street!" But I generally find Marriott's $10-13/night high-speed Internet connection or net/phone bundle to be a worthwhile investment. Would I rather it were free? Sure. But as long as it's not, I'll pay for it on every single stay. Thanks for making sure it's there and works.