Earlier this week, Marriott made headlines for blocking the use of Mi-Fi hotspots for conference-goers at its Nashville-based property—to the tune of a $600,000 fine.
The short version of the story: business travelers who came prepared with their own personal hotspots were getting their connections jammed, forced instead to use the exorbitantly pricey service provided by the hotel’s conference center (we’re talking up to $1,000 bills). Marriott’s argument? That they wanted their guests to have safe and speedy access—not hampered by “rogue” devices—so really, they were acting in customers’ best interests. We say: disappointing. Marriott’s quickly becoming one of the most tech-savvy hotel brands out there, and we’re huge fans, but this, quite simply, wasn’t cool.
Still, there’s a bigger story to be told about hotels and their relationship to technology—how the fast-evolving nature of technology challenges hotels’ ability to monetize it. In the past few years alone, we’ve seen the need for in-room phones and in-room entertainment—now perhaps even hotel Wi-Fi—be replaced by personal devices. The question they must wrestle with: do properties leverage personal tech as a means for providing additional services, or do they surreptitiously force customers to abandon gadgets for existing services?
This certainly isn’t the first time hotels have chosen the latter: think back to roughly a decade ago, and you may recall that some hotels dampened cell service in order to encourage the use of in-room phones. But we’re optimistic that hotels will find ways to embrace personal technology and use it as a springboard for enhancing the guest experience—whether they want to or not, at least now it’s clear that the FAA is watching.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.