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Free wireless internet is a make or break deal for business guests in UK hotels

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 Even though most will be able to claim any expenses from their employers, business travellers are highly averse to the idea of paying for wireless internet access in a hotel.

Indeed, according to new research, not only is the way in which some hotels in London and elsewhere in the world continue to charge their guests to get online an irritant to corporate guests, it can make or break a deal.

That is, while in the past free wireless may have been viewed as a nice extra, it is now regarded by a majority of both business and leisure travellers as a right, up there with complimentary tea and coffee and towels and, as such, consumers are starting to vote with their feet by boycotting establishments that have the nerve to charge them for internet use.

Research carried out by the consultancy firm Deloitte found that four in five of those business travellers polled agreed with the statement: 'Complimentary high speed internet in my room is important to me.'

What's more, a significant majority stated that wireless connectivity, or a lack of it, is a key criterion in choosing which hotel they are to stay at, which is hardly surprising given that most tend to use the internet in their rooms for getting ahead with work matters rather than for leisurely purposes.

At the same time, a separate poll of travellers booking into hotels across Europe, Asia and North America found that one in three business guests would think twice about staying in a hotel again should they have problems with internet access, and particularly if they are asked to pay for access on top of the standard room rate.

Interestingly, this second study, which was carried out by iPass, found that, rather than the so-called 'Facebook Generation', it is the more mature corporate traveller that is most keen to enjoy wireless internet access, and therefore most likely to be annoyed should they not be offered this.

For now, it may well be the case that leisure travellers are that little less demanding than their corporate counterparts, meaning guest houses in seaside towns won't have to rollout new technology at quite the same pace as major top-end hotels in London.

However, with broadband coverage within the UK now close to saturation point, high-speed internet access is now seen as a right rather than a privilege by growing numbers of Britons, including 'silver surfers', particularly when it comes to travel, given that most consumers now go online to book flights, train tickets and even accommodation.

At the same time, the Olympics and Royal Wedding are expected to help boost the number of foreign tourists visiting these shores, most of whom will come from high-tech societies where decent internet access is equally important, if not more so.

So, though many hoteliers may well be doing so begrudgingly, it seems that the days of being charged for getting online in a hotel suite or a foyer are slowly coming to an end, though it remains to be seen if the industry comes up with alternative 'extra charges' to cover their losses.


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