Internet access has become a basic expectation of travelers, and the status quo—with pricier hotels charging for Wi-Fi where “value” brands offer it for free—has been a niggling sore spot among hotel customers.
Beginning on January 15, 2015, all members of Marriott’s Rewards program will receive free standard in-room Wi-Fi at most Marriott family hotels, when bookings are made directly on Marriott.com, Marriott’s mobile app, 1-800-MARRIOTT, or through a Marriott hotel.
A number of Marriott brands already feature free in-room Wi-Fi, so the new Rewards policy amounts to an expansion of a current limited-availability benefit.
Refusing to participate are the Protea brand hotels and a handful of individual properties throughout the Marriott network of more than 3,800 hotels. Those holdouts amount to no more than a pinprick in what could otherwise be fairly deemed a true systemwide benefit.
What may still give Marriott loyalists pause, however, is the qualifier in “standard Wi-Fi.” That suggests that Marriott is moving toward a two-tiered Wi-Fi system. And indeed, the company’s announcement takes pains to reassure elite Rewards members that their status will still entitle them to “enhanced Wi-Fi.”
Travelers don’t just want free Wi-Fi, they want free fast Wi-Fi. If it turns out that Marriott’s standard Wi-Fi delivers anything less than a fast ride on the information highway, Rewards members may judge the new benefit more irksome than rewarding.
Reader Reality Check
When it comes to hotel Wi-Fi, what download speeds do you expect to be offered for free?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.