As Qatar seeks to expand its tourism sector and vie to attract more business travelers to the country, more hotels in Doha are beginning to offer free wireless internet (wifi) to guests.
Traditionally, the service has been considered an added option by many luxury hotels throughout the world, and guests were charged extra to access it.
However, with guests now increasingly requesting free wifi, particularly when they are staying overnight, a number of hotels here and internationally have recently changed their policies.
This month, two of Doha’s 5-star hotels announced the introduction of free wifi throughout their facilities.
Grand Hyatt Doha said yesterday that it was launching a complimentary service inside guest rooms and public areas as part of a change in direction across all of its hotels world-wide. In a statement, general manager Christoph K. Franzen said:
“Wi-Fi is now viewed as an essential element of a hotel stay as it has become an integral part of guests’ daily lives.”
To access the service in their rooms, guests need to input their last name and room number into a browser, while “walk-in” visitors can log-on for free in public areas. An optional high-speed service is available in meeting rooms and business facilities at an extra charge, a spokeswoman confirmed to Doha News.
Meanwhile, the Marriott Doha Hotel near the old airport introduced free wifi for all at the beginning of this month.
A spokesman for the hotel said that the new strategy was in response to customer demand and has so far proved successful.
A reliable mobile connection is increasingly becoming a necessity rather than an option for most people, whether they are traveling for business or pleasure, and many hotels are feeling the need to accommodate demand.
Other hotels in Qatar have offered free wifi for several years.
The Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) began offering free internet to its loyalty members worldwide in March 2013, eventually rolling it out to all guests.
The Intercontinental Hotel Doha, near Katara Cultural Village, also equips limousines that collect visitors from the airport with wifi service. Speaking to Doha News, a spokeswoman explained:
“We believe that wifi is a basic need, especially for someone who comes for business, and most of our guests are business travelers.
“It is a need that every guest demands nowadays especially those coming from Europe where it is common. For us not to offer it would be a disincentive to us.”
The recently-opened Marsa Malaz Kempinski on the Pearl-Qatar also has a free service providing “the fastest high speed WiFi internet connectivity” across its grounds for all visitors, according to its website.
Free wifi has also been available at the Four Seasons Doha hotel since January 2014. A spokeswoman told Doha News:
“We understand the importance of ‘staying connected’ for our guest. Our guests have ranked complimentary Wi-Fi as one of the most essential and valuable hotel amenities.”
But is it fast enough?
However, as more hotels offer free wifi service, they face an issue of “quality versus quantity.” Having a large number of people logged on at the same time can affect speeds and reliability of wifi, which can be frustrating to guests.
The website Hotelwifitest compiles an annual report of hotels in 50 selected cities throughout the world, examining the availability of free wifi as well as the quality of service provided.
While Qatar hotels are not included in the index, the index reflects the complex debate hotels and guests are engaged in when it comes to service priorities.
This push and pull is expected to become an increasingly pressing issue for Qatar as it expands its hotel offerings and develops its tourism sector.
This year alone, 20 new hotels and hotel apartments are expected to open in Qatar, representing a 25 percent increase in the number of guest rooms to 20,000, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) officials said earlier this month.
In the coming five years, approximately 80 new hotels and hotel apartments are set to open their doors, as Qatar prepares to host the World Cup in 2022 and as part of its wider National Tourism Strategy, which has a goal of attracting between 6.7 million and 7.4 million tourists annually by 2030.
More hotels will no doubt mean fiercer competition in trying to fill rooms and provide “value added” service that guests will remember.
Is having in-hotel wifi a necessity for you? Thoughts?