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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Guests will undoubtedly pay for the “free” Internet in some way in the room rate, but this is still a great move and will boost the ranks of InterContinental’s rewards program. Other big chains would be smart to follow InterContinental’s lead.
InterContinental Hotels Group says it is the first chain to commit to free Internet access for all members of its loyalty program.
Elite members are to get the free access beginning in July 2013, and the free Internet will extend to all loyalty program members during 2014, the company says.
Current Wi-Fi rates for guests at the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel are $12.95 per day for light access, and $15.95 for the premium service, for example.
The change will occur as IHG renames its loyalty program IHG Rewards Club, dropping the previous Priority Club Rewards name.
IHG says the free Internet will benefit all loyalty program members “whether they stay the night or come in for a coffee or an impromptu meeting.”
An InterContinental spokesperson says Internet technology varies among is more than 4,600 hotels, with many providing Wi-Fi and other offering Internet access through ethernet connections.
“The intention is to offer Wi-Fi throughout our hotels for members,” the spokesperson says.
InterContinental timed its free Internet announcement for loyalty program members with the release of an IHG-commissioned survey that found that Chinese travelers placed the most importance on online connectivity (47%) when choosing a hotel, followed by travelers from Russia (26%), the U.S. (23%), and India (22%).
Overall 43% of adults surveyed indicated they would choose to forego staying at a hotel if it charged for Internet access.
That finding highlights the fact that it is an intelligent business move for IHG to offer free Internet access for loyalty program members as it is a game-changer in hotel choices.
IHG takes in six brands, including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, says its Internet systems handle more than 17.5 billion emails annually.