Last updated: 09:00 AM ET, Thu August 13 2015

How A Boutique Hotel is Revolutionizing Free Wi-Fi

Travel Technology | Josh Lew | August 13, 2015

How A Boutique Hotel is Revolutionizing Free Wi-Fi

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

According to a recent survey conducted by, free Wi-Fi is at the top of most business travelers’ must-have list. When asked to name the most important hotel perk, 50 percent of business travelers who responded said “free Wi-Fi.” “Free breakfast,” meanwhile, only earned 12 percent of the vote.

Why did Wi-Fi score so highly? Most business travelers are probably tired of the hoops that different hotels make them jump through before they can get a fast and reliable Internet connection. 

Major hotels still lacking when it comes to Wi-Fi

Actually, when you think about it, it is easy to understand why travelers responded the way that they did. A 2014 audit of major hotels saw that many of the main chains used by business travelers did not offer free in-room internet access. Even in 2015, guests at some of the largest hotel chains have to go to a lobby, lounge or business center to score an internet connection. 

Small hotel chains and independent hotels have taken advantage of the industry’s non-generous internet policies by making fast, free wireless access one of their main selling points. If you go by the survey numbers, these upstarts could potentially steal half of all business travelers from their no-free-Wi-Fi competitors.

It is only a matter of time before all the major hotel players, especially those who focus on business travelers, get the message and start to offer free wireless Internet in every room. Lots of brands have changed their policy in the past year to offer at least some sort of free connection. All these hotels already have the tech infrastructure in place. They don't have to install new Wi-Fi networks; they just have to stop charging for access.

The world's most generous free Wi-Fi perk

At least one small hotel chain is taking the idea of free-internet to another level. Business travelers are probably hoping that a new perk offered by Room Mate Hotels will soon be adopted by other chains as well. 

Room Mate, a small boutique chain headquartered in Spain, was one of the first hotels in its home country to offer internet access to guests.

Now, people have the chance to get even more connected. Room Mate's Wi-Fi is not limited to the rooms. It is not even limited to the hotel. Guests can get free wireless internet access anywhere in their destination city with a complimentary mobile router provided by the hotel. The routers, each of which can connect to five mobile devices, are available to everyone who stays in one of the 19 Room Mate hotels in Europe and the Americas

A gimmick or a game changer?

Is there a catch? Perhaps a small one. According to USA Today, the service provides 100mb of data, so it is not totally unlimited. At the same time, offering a free wireless connection that can be used outside of the hotel is unheard of in the hospitality industry.

In a way, the service fits with Room Mate’s image. Despite being a chain, the 19 locations, in 12 different cities, feel very much like independent boutique hotels. The rooms are modern and somewhat minimalistic, and you might call the decor style at some of the locations “hip” and “artsy.” Room Mate could definitely be described as a cool place to stay. The mobile Wi-Fi perk fits with that image.

Though they don't really feel like business hotels in the traditional sense, most Room Mate locations, including three in the US, have conference facilities. This means that they are actually a viable alternative to larger business-traveler-oriented chains.  

Will the free mobile Wi-Fi prove to be a gimmick or will it really bring more reservations to Room Mate? Theoretically, since Wi-Fi is a deciding factor for a high number of reservation-seekers, the idea should quickly take off. The question is: will other hotels adopt this perk or something similar to it?   


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