November 16, 2015
Meeting managers around the country can easily share with you how many times during a conference we are stopped by attendees asking for the passcode to connect to Wi-Fi. Some are now not simply asking but getting annoyed if the conference doesn’t provide this service. They exclaim that they can get free Wi-Fi at their local fast food place, but not at their conference. Most attendees don’t understand the cost of providing all attendees with free Wi-Fi because they think that since they get Wi-Fi at home for $50 dollars a month then that is all it costs while at a hotel or conference. But we know the dreaded “hotel internet fee” is typically much more than that. I recall a particular property a few years back that wanted to charge our group for bulk Wi-Fi access a fee of $17,000.
Although more people are showing up to meetings with smartphones and tablets, the fees for venue Wi-Fi haven’t decreased much. A 2015 Pew Research study shows that two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and for most their phone is the primary means for connecting to the online world. The number of smartphone owners worldwide is over 1 billion. About half of Americans now own a tablet too. And all these people want the same thing: affordable access to the internet.
So what can you do if your attendees are demanding access, but facilities are unlikely to budge on their fees? Groups such as Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) are keeping a close watch on the trends and working with hotels to reach a mutual balance.
At Kellen, we address the issue from the very beginning of the site selection process. We ask in all our RFPs what the internet costs are upfront for Wi-Fi, hard lines and the bandwidths available. We determine our clients’ specific needs, which helps us negotiate the best possible deal without paying for access they don’t need. As such, we continually keep internet costs in the forefront throughout the negotiation process, and not as an afterthought we deal with after the contract is signed. It’s a beautiful thing when hotels offer free “Convenience Wi-Fi” in guest rooms and common areas for basic emails. We also work to provide our clients affordable paid bandwidth in exhibit halls, meeting rooms, and for speaker presentations and streaming of content. Sometimes, if comparing similar properties and everything else being equal, it can come down to internet costs.
How do you reconcile the increasing demand for Wi-Fi with the high fees? Is it something your meeting attendees expect to have?