Marriott Touts Free Broadband

By year’s end, Marriott International will have free high-speed Internet access in the guest rooms of more than 1,200 mid-range properties, including its Courtyard, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites hotels.

Another of the Washington, D.C.-based company’s hotel chains, Fairfield Inn, will provide the service at more than 500 hotels by the end of 2004. Of the 1,700 hotels that will offer free service, about 600 are already wired.

Marriott spokesman Scott Carman told that the company has 400 hotels with Wi-Fi access but is using wired solutions to be sure it serves as many customers as possible.

“Currently we view Wi-Fi as a complement to wired access,” Carman said. “Many business travelers don’t have the technology to access Wi-Fi and we need to be able to meet the needs of both the early adopters and the majority who are still carrying laptops that are not WiFi equipped.”

At the company’s higher-end hotels, Marriott and Renaissance, will continue to offer “Wired for Business” packages which provide unlimited local and long-distance calls within the United States with in-room broadband for $9.95 a day.

The hospitality industry, which has taken a drubbing over the last year, is looking for ways to fill rooms. High-speed Internet access is increasingly seen as a must-have amenity, especially for business travelers.

For example, last month, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which operates Four Poins, Sheraton, St. Regis, Westin and W Hotel brands, is building 750 Wi-fi hotspots at its properties. At the start, the service will be free.

Starwood is also experimenting with ways to use Wi-Fi with staffers to make them more efficient.

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