Tourism Australia Pushing Hotels For Free Wi-Fi

Coughing up a chunk of cash for 30 minutes and a 63-byte download limit is no one's idea of a fair deal, unless you're the operator of a hotel offering such an irresistible package. That said, change may be on the way... if Tourism Australia gets its way. The body is reportedly urging the industry to not only dump the price tag, but the wires as well.

Image: °Florian / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

A story in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Tourism Australia is attempting to convince "thousands of Australian hotels to provide free wi-fi and end exorbitant in-room internet bills". It goes on to mention that it's trying to get telcos to back the initiative... as well as alleging that Tourism Australia may have an ulterior motive in mind, in the form of an "explosion of social media marketing".

Though that's not the tune the organisation is singing, going by comments from general manager of consumer marketing, Nick Baker. From the SMH:

"Holidays are all about living in the moment," he said. "How often have we promised ourselves that we'll post a great holiday moment on Facebook, tweet out a photo or a review on TripAdvisor, but not been able to do so due to lack of wi-fi access?"

Dousing Baker's optimistic view of a future where everyone will know everything about our holidays, is Peter Hook of the Accor Asia Pacific hotel group. The SMH article has the general manager of communications on record stating that implementing free wi-fi is no small — or cheap — task. He makes the comparison to the connectivity offered at McDonald's — sure, it's free, but it's also crappy. Providing a "high-quality, secure service" would require "100-plus" routers for your typical high-rise hotel.

I'm not going to say no to free, fast and reliable wi-fi at my next hotel stay, but I'm also a realist. Despite what Tourism Australia might want, it's going to take a considerable amount of work to convince the big chains to not only pay the coin for wi-fi infrastructure, but to offer it without a price tag.

Free wi-fi in travellers' sights [SMH]


    I've got no problem paying a little extra for wifi - good quality connection that is. The problem is that some hotels see it as a cash cow. They offer crappy connections and charge $15 for 30 mins. This is what needs to go. A few dollars per day on your room bill, is fine for a good connection, just don't abuse it.

    Nearly all of the accommodation I used in Thailand provided free WiFi. (all except the rural motel that we paid $4 per night for)
    If they can do it, why can't we?

    Time that this issue received an airing: I am involved in the Tourism sector (boutique small hotel accommodation) and I disagree with Tourism Australia on this subject, firstly let me say "there is no such thing as a free lunch" If the guest requires internet access then unfortunately they have to pay, its a fact of life the next step is asking for a free bed. That said as an accommodation provider if I provide the service then it must be reliable, secure and reasonably priced. Several years ago we embarked upon a secure service using a proxy server, management software and the use of a small Java applet for login purposes. Most guests would not allow the installation of the applet which allowed the system to run and objected to paying but would then spend hours trying to break into the system. The system protected me the provider and the guest through the security aspects. We subsequently removed it as it wasn't being utilised and technology changed, another cost maintaining the technology. The majority of my guests now use "dongles" and connect via WIFI through the Telco's. For us to install and offer internet access be it wired or wifi to guests someone has to pay for the purchase, provision and maintenance of the infrastructure, and that is the guest. This whole issue of offering free this or that including free internet is tiresome from an operators perspective. When I travel and I travel extensively into Europe and Asia I pay the charges a hotel requires to access a reliable service mostly wired from my hotel room. As Peter Hook of Accor says about McDonalds and others who offer free wifi sure its free but its also crappy. My tech head told me the best connections at McDonald's and other similar outlets is best at the start of the new billing period once the bandwith is used up it goes to dial up speeds, why because someone has to pay. Get over this free everything attitude and realise that nothing in life is free, someone pays and that's the user, if the service is a paid service and it doesn't deliver you have grounds for complaint if its free then sorry you haven't a leg to stand on.

      All good and well conquistador,
      i Am pretty sure you dont charge extra for colour tv, or the teabags, or maybe even the chocalate under the bed. Bottom line is you can do anything you want, its your hotel after all. If the people shop around for a hotel in your area and some offer free internet and some dont they will choose the latter. Like in the old days the hotel with the FREE colour tv got most customers, then a few years later the hotels struggling also offered free colour tv. So once again charge whatever you like, but would you still charge if every body else offers good internet for free? How would that sign look like on that hotel next door saying "Colour tv available only $5 a night". Tip, because pretty much everybody uses computer, put the price up of you room rate for everybody and use that money to provide "free wifi.
      But once again not telling you how to run your hotel, its your hotel.

      Great logic, Conquistador. I suppose, by the same logic, that you are also charging guests for changing the sheets on the bed, the elevator service, and the electricity and water - Because each of those would cost you more to provide than it would cost for me to check my emails before I go to sleep!

      Last edited 04/03/13 3:05 am

      Why don't you let us know how much you were charging? As with other posters here at home I can get an unlimited service for about $2 per day. Every hotel I have stayed at in Australia wants at LEAST $10 per HOUR. I guess the think of it as the candy store at the theater. Everywhere I have stayed in Turkey has had free wireless internet as did most places in Asia so I am not sure what type of hotels you were staying in.

      So why is it that a very high number of hotels in Japan, France, and the UK when I travelled in Feb 2012, and shortly in the USA in March 2013, all have wifi free?

      To me it's a selling point, a discerning feature I will choose one hotel over another.

      Get with the times or lose customers.

        ^ This

        I went to Japan last year and in each of the 3 places we stayed (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara) they all provided free wi-fi. Hell, the Hotel in Osaka even allowed you to call home free (to let your loved ones back home know you got there safely)

        Sure, you can charge $10+ an hour for a connection, but sooner or later you are going to fall behind the times and as people become more and more connected, lack of free(or even dirt cheap) wi-fi will definitely be considered a deal-breaker for travelers. This will definitely be noticeable for those who still only provide a cabled service when people increasingly use tablets and mobiles to connect.

    I traveled through Egypt last year from Aswan to Alexandria. Even the most basic hotels in a developing country offered either free or a few EGP per day to receive the wifi password. The usual model there wasn't "100-plus" access points for wifi - quite simply it was usually a wireless router installed in the lobby connected to an ADSL line. Guests are more than willing to use their devices in the common area as a compromise, and the cost to the hotel would be a $150 router and a basic ADSL business service ~$100 month. It amazes me why something this simple isn't done in a first-world nation like ours.

    While they at it.......they can try convince the airports to provide web access. Every country you travel to nowadays has an abundance of free hotspots but not Aus. We try to rip everyone off including ourselves.

      T1 and T2 in Sydney provide free internet terminal wide

    I can understand charging something for WiFi, but the rates are always way out of proportion. I'd be happy to pay a fair price; at home my Internet costs me ~$2/day for my own private ADSL2 connection with unlimited use. Given the economies of scale when you have many guests, it would be reasonable to expect to pay a small fraction of that at a large Hotel.

    BUT NO! Places like the Hilton have offered Internet at an unbelievable $30/day. That is so far removed from the cost of service it makes my eyes water.

    Great post, Logan. And I completely agree with conquistador as a cost of implementing and supporting the infrastructure can be very high. In order to provide the wireless internet services to the customers the hotel needs to pay for ADSL internet (some hotels have dedicated links or even satellite internet), wireless equipment, cabling, hotspot software, labor to implement all this infrastructure etc. It's obvious that they transfer these costs to the clients. Some hotels include it into the room price (they just charge $10-$20 extra per room per day and you'll get a "free" wi-fi), others have additional fees for internet access.

    I work for a company called WiFi Point and we specialise in low cost wireless hotspots for small hotels and B&B around Australia. Our flagship product is a self installation kit, which significantly reduces the costs for hotels and provide a secure, reliable and controlled way to offer the customers the free (or paid) internet. If somebody is interested, please explore our site and contact us for a quote.

    I still think it's pretty bad that you can go to hospital, pay $500 for a bed, not including what you pay for the reason your there. And still get charged a stupid amount for internet access. I'm not going to argue if internet should be free in hospital, or if it should be available or not at all. But $500 for a bed, per night, when the government puts so much into health, if internet is available, it shouldn't cost more than using a wifi hotspot even at Telstra's prices. (which is what we ended up doing). As for hotels, wifi should be free, but again, we just take a Telstra hotspot.

    I run small rundown guesthouses in Sydney where a room can be as cheap as $200 a week and still manage free wifi. Yes I had to put in some wifi range extender things plus have a decent modem and get a decent unlimited connection but I consider not providing it the same as just refusing to have water or electricity. It's such an essential thing for travellers.

    @ GuesthouseGal - I applaud your efforts. You should really put to shame the big names.

    Including hardware and monthly cost - initially $3 a day.
    Here is an idea if you find it so expensive to install WiFi Mr Big Hotel. Renting out a Telstra dongle thing is still cheaper than you $30/h internet.

    I've travelled all over the world and Australia is on of the few countries still charging for internet access in hotels. It's stupid to expect hotel guests to use the shitty leaflet table or rude concierge to decide what to do in town when online offers so much more.
    Internet access is a very real deciding factor to my choice of hotel.
    Hotel managers not offereing it for free should go hang out with Gerry and Blockbuster

    This story is old, but just an update. Internet service is still pathetic in Australia.

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