Monday, 2 August 2010

Why do luxury hotels behave like Ryanair?

We're just back from a great holiday in Italy, taking in the opera in Milan and Verona, great historic sights in both cities, the beautiful peace and quiet of Sant' Angelo on Ischia, and the chaotic energy of Naples. We had great food and wine, and are well refreshed. But as we stayed in five different hotels across Italy, a curious point struck me about the different attitude of different hotels: the posher hotels act most like Ryanair in their treatment of their guests.

To illustrate, we stayed in hotels in Milan and Verona, both attractive small-ish hotels where there was inclusive breakfast, free wifi and free soft drinks from the mini-bar. Or, rather, we were assumed to have paid for all these in our room tariff in the same way that British Airways didn't charge extra for our luggage and a sandwich when we returned from Naples yesterday. But when we stayed the last couple of nights at a more upmarket Naples hotel - which was very nice - the charges came thick and fast. Three Euros for thirty minutes using your own computer to access the Internet. Six Euros for a small bottle of coke or four for a small mineral water from the minibar. Thirty Euros each for breakfast if we wanted it. I know from experience that this is the norm: 3* and some 4* hotels are far more likely than 5* hotels to provide wifi and mineral water as standard.

At the very least, wifi should be free in any room and not treated as a cash cow. And mineral water should be offered where the tap water is undrinkable. After all, hotels don't charge people extra for the toiletries or TV which are included in a room price. And hotels that charge for wifi should be required explicitly to publish their charges in the same way that Ryanair (however reluctantly) has to publish its ludicrous baggage charges. There are an increasing number of great hotels that offer free wifi, while others can charge as much as £20 a day. It is time that hotels were required to spell out their extras as explicitly as any budget airline: the irony is that it is the most upmarket ones that will complain loudest when they are.

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