I have been fortunate enough to frequently visit Australia over the last decade. It does frustrate me though that hotels haven’t caught up with this whole wifi service.
My trips to the land down under have roughly equalled twice a year although I’m currently on my third one this year. Trips often include the wonderful Melbourne and Sydney. I do go other places too, including Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay, Fremantle, Adelaide to name but a few.
Over the years I’ve stayed in a range of hotels and motels. From your big name brands like Holiday Inn and The Sebel to tiny family run guest houses.
They all stand out though in consistency. A consistency which I think is not to be proud of especially when compared to the rest of the world. I’m talking about wifi.
When wifi first came out it was a revelation for many of us. A chance not to make stupidly expensive dial up calls on a connection which was slow and often cut out. A chance to move with the times and not be tied to a desk.
As technology evolved we could now check e-mail and browse on phones or other hand held devices such as tablet computers.
The prevalence of wifi has made it a mainstay for the hotel guest. Not just the business traveller but also the leisurely one too.
In the early to mid-2000s I noticed a pattern emerge with many of the US hotel chains. For the mid-range hotels such as the Hampton Inn by Hilton, or Fairfield Inn by Marriott, complimentary wifi was included with your room rate.
I’ve often been perplexed as to why the high end Hilton and Marriott hotels (amongst others) charge for wifi when the mid-lower tier of their brands do not.
Years ago when selecting a hotel I would look for a swimming pool or gym (exercise room) in trying to determine which hotel I preferred. Now I always look for complimentary wifi as my first priority.
I’ve seen the prevalence of internet access spread across the globe at various hotel facilities. That is with one exception on my frequent trips, Australia.
Crikey I can even receive inclusive wifi access at my hotel in India. Okay the connection is not very fast or reliable, but at least it is free!
On this most recent trip I had to book my hotels. Some mix up or miscommunication meant that we did not go through our usual channel of using our local contacts in Australia.
Not to worry as this would give me the freedom of choice and being able to select what I like.
I used various hotel websites, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott, Accor and more. I even used the amalgamation sites such as Hotels.com and expedia.
First stop was Brisbane. Loads of hotels came up in the search from high end to cheap and cheerful backpackers. Could I find inclusive wifi? Not a chance.
The same with Melbourne. As an A-Club member with Accor I know they have lots of hotels in Melbourne so their site was a good resource.
Some of the hotels in the search results had a wifi symbol alongside their facilities. Confusingly some said “wifi (free)” as opposed to “wifi (paying)”. Clicking through to more hotel detail this was soon corrected as it then stated the wifi was a paid for service. Very misleading.
It is not cheap either! No matter which hotel or city I look at they are very pricey. I was seeing things like AUD12 per 2 hour use. You what! It is an absolute scandal.
And not to mention the rip off charges the hotel chains charge for breakfast. AUD30 is not unusual when all I want is a bowl of cereal and a hot drink.
A few years ago our company started to use The Grand Chancellor in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. On my first visit there the manager in charge was keen to make a good impression. On checking in I found a complimentary bottle of red wine in my room along with an invite for dinner.
I’m not very comfortable with sales pitches and all this corporate smoozing. At first I didn’t respond. Yet she was keen and even rang my work offices to find out when I’d join her for dinner.
Feeling the pressure and sensing that this faceless manager really wanted to exchange small talk over dinner I relented and accepted the invitation.
To be fair the dinner was very nice, I think I ate crocodile that night. All the dinner cost was picked up by the hotel which I’m grateful for. The conversation was also pleasant and I can’t grumble.
At the end of the conversation the manager did ask me how I was enjoying my stay and could she assist with anything. And there it was, my opportunity!
I explained about how forward thinking the American hotel chains were with complimentary wifi in the rooms. Her response was “Oh we’ve got wifi in the room, haven’t you seen it?” I explained that I had but there was a hefty charge to use it. With that she didn’t want to know and wouldn’t entertain my suggestion. Seeing the lack of competition in this area I can see why.
Research has led me to believe that an external company provide the wifi services in hotels in Australia. They adopt a policy of charging at point of service and charge they do, through the nose!
I wish Australian hotels would show some commitment and take charge of their wifi service.
They only have to charge maybe AUD2-3 more in the nightly room rate and I’m sure they’d more than cover the costs of providing inclusive internet access for all guests. Lets face it, not every guest is going to use it.
I know I’m a business traveller who is on expenses. However I take my expenses seriously and often treat it as my own money. I don’t abuse the system and keep my costs reasonable. I know the value of things, not just the price of things. So paying $12-$20 for around 2 hours internet access, or whatever the daily allowance is will be far beyond my definition of fair.
I do have a way to solve the problem. When in Australia I buy a USB mobile internet (sometimes called a dongle).
At first I tried Dodo. However I found their customer service totally appalling and would never use them again. Their brand name seems to be closely linked to their belief in building customer trust.
In recent years I’ve been using the white USB internet offered by Optus. Quite nicely branded as “Yes Optus”.
Yes Optus indeed as I find them easy to use. Since I’m not in the country too frequently I find my sim card has expired within six months. So first things first when I arrive in the land down under. I track down an Optus shop and obtain a new internet sim card to put into my dongle.
Connecting up I log in with my registered account and the sim card is usually activated within an hour.
There are a range of price options available and since I pay as I go I find it suits me down to the ground. I could probably have over a month’s internet usage on Optus for the price of a few hours wifi in a hotel.
If you can’t find an Optus store then Telstra are also a mobile broadband company to consider.
So come on hotels. I’ve got you sussed out and you are not winning me over. Get a grip Australian hotels and give us our complimentary wifi, now.
To read more of my rants click here.