Effective February 2, Starwood will offer complimentary internet at all hotels to all members as long as reservations are made through an SPG channel.
Non-status members are only entitled to throttled speeds, where applicable. Golds, who can already choose internet as an amenity option, will get high speed internet and can still select a points or beverage amenity.
Starwood is a follower here — IHG Rewards came out with internet for everyone a year ago (though of course most of their hotels already gave it to everyone as a brand standard, only the upper-tier ones did not and in certain regions).
That leaves Hilton and Hyatt in a tough spot. Hyatt gives free internet to all elites, which means all of its co-brand credit card holders as well. And Hilton gives it to Golds, a benefit provided to their premium cardholders.
Internet charges are an area of frustration, and brands that solve that earn business. At least that’s the view American Express has adopted. It’s long been ironic that the cheaper brands have provided free internet, while higher room rates include less.
The challenges that hotels face are legacy contracts for providing the service, and a small number of buests using the majority of bandwidth, that they don’t have sufficient capacity to provide internet to everyone and so charging not only pays their costs but also rations use — hence even when it’s free, the broadest base of members get throttled speeds, or at least chains allow individual hotels to offer throttled speeds.
It will be interesting to see how long Hyatt (which just extended its room type guarantee to all members) and Hilton can buck the trend, or whether they’ll lose business to Marriott, Starwood, and IHG.
- You can join the 40,000+ people who see these deals and analysis every day — sign up to receive posts by email (just one e-mail per day) or subscribe to the RSS feed. It’s free. You can also follow me on Twitter for the latest deals. Don’t miss out!