wherefore art thou, wi-fi?

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O Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi, wherefore art thou Wi-Fi?
Deny thy costs and create thy connection;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I’ll no longer be without a signal.

When we ask ourselves what is important when we travel, we may say good weather, a nice beach, a nice meal, etc. Increasingly, however, Wi-Fi is becoming a necessary selling point in any vacation plan, and I for one will go out of my way to ensure that the accommodations I pick have Wi-Fi – and that it works.

While one may tell me to turn off my devices when travelling – “c’mon man, chill without the Wi-Fi” – blogging and social media have increasingly become a part of the travel experience, not apart from the experience. In other words, the real time updates that travelers provide, whether it is through twitter or on their Facebook timeline, are a real-time diary of their travels. Forget the pen and paper, the mobile device will suffice.

Unless I am trekking for mountain gorillas or on a ship in the Galapagos, I expect a Wi-Fi signal. There is nothing more frustrating than a seemingly high-end hotel with no Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi signal that is present but doesn’t work. I was in Peru last year and interestingly enough, the lower end hotels [my hotels of choice] – the family-owned or local hotels – understood the importance of Wi-Fi more than the larger chains. While staying at a small hotel on the central square of Cusco, the hotel had spectacular free Wi-Fi, full signal, and it worked. In fact, my travel buddy and I changed hotels because the first hotel’s Wi-Fi didn’t work. We used some excuse about having to leave all of a sudden. Yes – we had to leave and get connected!

Conversely in Lima, a large globally recognized chain had a big Wi-Fi fail. Not only did this hotel charge four times the price per night for a room, but they also charged for Wi-Fi. And not only did they charge for Wi-Fi, they limited the Wi-Fi to two devices. Well into the twenty-first century, it is not unusual for each individual to have up to three devices [laptop, ipad, iphone, kindle, etc.]. My travel buddy had one and I had two. When we tried to connect a third device to the Wi-Fi that we were paying for, it took us many calls and an hour of red tape to get this to happen. All for a fee of course.

As the higher end hotels [yes Marriott and Sheraton I’m talking to you] may tend to cater to an older, more affluent demographic, perhaps they haven’t yet gotten the message that Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury add-on, that in the twenty-first century it is the technological equivalent of hot and cold running water. Continuing this policy will turn off many of the under-forty crowd, not to mention their future customer base: generation text. For this and many other reasons when travelling I always recommend staying at a locally-owned hotel to contribute to the local economy rather than adding to the profit margins of one of the big box chains.

The big box chain Wi-Fi policies currently make that choice easy. Avoiding the large hotels will prevent me from asking the question: wherefore art thou, Wi-Fi?

 

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