When a bad Internet connection in your hotel room stops you from uploading the biggest order of your career to the home office, you stop caring that you're out of fresh towels.
An April 2012 Hotels.com survey found that free Wi-Fi is the most desired amenity, beating out free breakfast, free parking and even a luxury mattress. Poor Internet connections became the top complaint cited by hotel guests in a July 2012 J.D. Power and Associates study. The previous year, it trailed only noise and poor room maintenance.
The growing demand for Wi-Fi means hotel operators in Michigan are in a near-constant state of improvement.
Grand Rapids-based Amway Hotel Corp. spent $170,000 in 2012 to improve the Wi-Fi systems at its Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids.
"One of the top three complaints on comment cards was ‘my Wi-Fi seemed slow,' " said Michael Cavanagh, the company's chief information officer.
Amway Hotel - which also operates a J.W. Marriott across the street from the Amway Grand and aCourtyard by Marriott a few blocks to the south of the Marriott - was pushed to improve Wi-Fi at those franchises because of the standards set by Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott Corp.
Cavanagh and other hotel executives have found that it isn't always the number of guests logging on to a hotel Wi-Fi system that causes the problem. It's more the challenge presented by the number of devices those guests use and the size of their uploads and downloads.
"If you have 100 rooms with a personal phone, a laptop and a tablet, all of a sudden you have everyone and all of their devices trying to get out on one pipe," said Alex Mowczan who runs three hotels in Traverse City - the Cambria Suites, Best Western and Comfort Inn - as president ofSummerside Properties LLC.
A study conducted by iBAHN, a Salt Lake City provider of information technology systems for the hotel and convention industries, found that business travelers, not surprisingly, are the biggest Wi-Fi users. Forty percent connect two devices such as smartphones, laptops or tablets, while 25 percent connect three or more devices.
And it is only going to get worse. The mean average data transferred per day on the iBAHN network by hotel guests in 2011 was 280 megabytes per room. However, some people were downloading as much as 200 gigabytes. Think of it this way: If each megabyte were a penny, a gigabyte would be $10 bill.
The iBAHN study predicts that the Wi-Fi use will double every year for the next three years.