SOME say the best things in life are free. Breakfast in bed on a Sunday, enjoying sundown at the beach, having a good conversation with good company the list goes on but what would certainly be applicable for most people in this day and age is Internet access.
I recently stumbled across a CNN report on why top-of-the-line hotel chains in the US charge for Internet access while mid-range hotels offer it for free. Experts are cited in the report as saying: "Because they can" which lead to a quick survey on 10 hotels across Bandar Seri Begawan to find out which ones offer in-room Internet access for free and which ones don't.
For starters, the Empire Hotel and Country Club, one of Brunei's most well-known hotels, charges guests staying in the lower category rooms (Superior and Deluxe) $5 an hour or $30 a day for basic in-room Internet access. However those staying in higher category rooms at the five-star resort get to enjoy complimentary access.
By now, the most seasoned travellers would have realised from reading the fine print that the more upscale the hotel is, the more likely they are to charge for basic in-room Internet access.
It seems like such is the case in Brunei.
The Empire Hotel is one of the three five-star hotels in the survey that charge extra for in-room Internet access, the other being The Rizqun International Hotel, which charges the most out of all the hotels in the survey.
It charges $6 an hour for those staying in standard rooms, while those in the "Premier Deluxe" rooms and above get free access (the hotel also has a business package in which complimentary Internet access is included with a Standard Deluxe room).
A three-star hotel owned by the same group, The Centrepoint Hotel, has the same rates at $6 an hour or $40 a day.
The rest of the hotels in the survey the three-star "boutique" Brunei Hotel, the starless Trader's Inn, Riverview Hotel (three-star), Orchid Garden Hotel (four-star), Holiday Lodge (three-star) and Times Hotel (four-star) offer free Internet access in all rooms.
The survey results seem to correlate with another survey cited in the CNN report by STR Global, which stated that 75 per cent of luxury and "upper upscale" hotel chains in the US (which include the likes of Four Seasons, Hilton and Marriot) charge for in-room Internet access.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association 2010 Lodging Survey also stated that just two per cent of full-service mid-range hotel chains (which include the likes of Holiday Inn) ask guests to pay a fee for surfing the web in their rooms.
An interesting revelation from the survey is that "the same hotel chain will provide complimentary Internet in its less expensive properties, while charging for it at the upscale ones".
For example, Radisson Brunei (five-star) offers complimentary in-room Internet access for guests in all rooms while Radisson Lexington Hotel New York charges guests extra.
So why do many of these posh hotels ask guests to pay extra for the privilege? "The hotels charge for Internet because the customers continue to pay for it," said the report, citing a travel industry analyst.
"The belief is that many of these travellers are staying either for business and will be expensing the charge, or if they're staying for personal reasons and can afford to pay the rates the hotel charges, they can afford to pay for the Internet."
But really? We're fast approaching an age where most frequent travellers would agree that having to pay for Internet access in a hotel room would be akin to having to pay for complimentary bottled water.
"They feel nickled and dimed. They feel frustrated. If you're paying US$500 (around $628) for a hotel room, you can probably afford US$15 or US$20 a day for the Internet. But it leaves a bad taste in people's mouth," Janice Hough, a travel agent who writes for the blog Consumer Traveller, was quoted as saying in the CNN report. Internet access is a must-have amenity in any hotel room. If providing it for free doesn't do business any justice, bring the rates down last time I checked it was $1 an hour at Rainforest Cyber Cafe.
The Brunei Times
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
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