UPDATE: Starwood has joined the free Wi-Fi ranks. The hotel behemoth recently announced that it will offer complimentary service for all members of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program beginning in February. One hitch: you only get it if you book through an official Starwood channel, including hotel brand websites, SPG.com, and the SPG app.
Hyatt and Hilton: the ball is in your court.
In the last few weeks, two major hotel brands have announced that they will start offering free WiFi: Taj Hotels started November 15, and Marriott next year, on January 15. But before you start cheering, there is a catch: the internet speed is only fast enough for checking email, browsing the internet, and updating social media. All things we do while on the road, sure, but if you were hoping to stream any video or download large files, it’ll cost you.
India’s leading hospitality brand, Taj Hotels, is bringing free internet to 125 properties across all brands, including Vivanta by Taj and Gateway Hotels. Guests can use it on up to three devices without having to pay extra.
The behemoth Marriott brand, meanwhile, is offering the complimentary WiFi to the 47 million members of the Marriott Rewards loyalty program, which is free to join. This means that guests of JW Marriott, Autography Collection, AC Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, and—wait for it—The Ritz-Carlton receive the benefit. Upgrading to enhanced WiFi that’s five times faster will cost you, though. Platinum and Gold Elite members will get this premier service for free. Not a member? You can join during your stay and access the WiFi immediately. It’s worth it, given that standard service costs $13 a day for non-members.
The time when all hotels offer property-wide fast WiFi without charging for it will likely never come—but the smart brands are ceding the battle. And in the end, allowing us to check our emails and update Twitter for free is better than nothing.
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.