Sunday, February 9, 2014

All Caribbean Hotels Should Have Free Wi-Fi

By Nick Sutherland
IN an increasingly connected world, having Wi-Fi in a hotel room has become as obligatory as running water. I hate having to check into a hotel in the Caribbean and hear that Wi-Fi is extra. I immediately  starting planning to stay somewhere else on my next visit. 
I have found that Trinidad and Barbados are pretty good in the proliferation of free Wi-Fi in their hotels, although I have heard that in  the Bahamas, it's common, and there are a lot of restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi.  The Bahamas Weekly newspaper frequently publishes an updated list of free Wi-Fi places

But at hotels around the world, Wi-Fi isn’t always accessible — or free. Sometimes there’s a daily charge, or a multiple-day fee. Other times, Wi-Fi is free, with restrictions: from expiring codes to cumbersome passwords. And, frequently, if it is free, it’s not very fast.
As the Caribbean seeks to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive global tourism market, the question is, should Caribbean hotels offer free, fast, unrestricted Wi-Fi, standard?
Well, there are certainly inherent costs.
Wi-Fi isn’t free to set up, and, depending on the size of the hotel, ensuring smooth, continuous bandwidth can be pricey. (There are, of course, some Caribbean hotels that offer a “digital detox” — but at those properties, the absence of Wi-Fi is actually a major reason for the trip.)
But there are options — as is already common in some Caribbean properties, hotels could offer free Wi-Fi for one device, and charge for any additional devices. Others could simply charge a few extra dollars a day and effectively include the Wi-Fi price in the room rate.
There’s another option, of course: simply add a small, included Wi-Fi tax to the room rate, similar to taxes that have been used to develop tourism marketing budgets. So many Caribbean governments continue to levy departure taxes at the airport — could perhaps a small percentage of these taxes be used to develop, not just hotel Wi-Fi, but island-wide Wi-Fi ?
Indeed, a Caribbean with broad hotel Wi-Fi connectivity would mean broader Internet access for all — not just the region’s hotels. The Caribbean could then boast to the rest of the world that, despite its beautiful, tropical scenery, its hotels always include free, fast Wi-Fi. Would that not be a competitive advantage?
Wi-Fi has become a necessary part of any traveler’s stay, and the bad taste its absence leaves should not be understated.