Everyone Asks: why do some hotels charge for internet?

Everyone asks.... When some small hotels and b&bs offer internet access at no charge, why do many large business hotels charge $20 per day for logging on and checking your email?

Exorbitant internet fees are at or near the top of the list in hotel industry surveys that measure guest dissatisfaction, and the practice is particularly prevalent in Australia.

According to hoteliers, there's a substantial difference in the cost of providing internet in a large hotel compared with a small one. Many hotels installed internet in an era when the only way to deliver the service was via an expensive cabled network, and the high daily fee simply recoups their investment.

Some hotels outsourced the installation and management of their internet service to third parties and thereby surrendered their control over user-pay internet fees.

These hotels are not inclined to offer free internet since they cater primarily to business travellers, who can either charge the cost to their corporate account or write it off as a tax deduction, thus dulling the pain.

Some hoteliers also say that since a hotel that caters primarily to business or luxury travellers and that advertises free internet is simply absorbing the cost in its rate, a hotel that offers internet as a user-pays add-on can appear more attractive via a lower base room rate, just as a budget airline might charge extra for checked baggage.

It is undeniable that a fee of $20 per day for internet usage bears little relation to the cost of providing the service. However hotels also ramp up the charge for a can of Coke from the minibar or a phone call using the room handset.

Just like the high ancillary fees that budget airlines charge for a couple of kilos of excess baggage, internet fees have become a significant revenue stream for many hotels, and they’re not likely to disappear.