As many of us have read over the past week, some major hotel chains — Hyatt and Hyatt Place Hotels, Omni and some Starwood properties — have made the decision to remove Yellow Pages directories from their hotel rooms. (Although a call to our September conference hotel, Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency, revealed it has yet to receive notice from its headquarters regarding this decision.) According to The Charlotte Observer, “The chain has dumped in-room phone books ‘primarily due to the convenience the Internet provides.’ ”
While this may be positioned as a “green” decision or one that is based on the belief that people use the in-room Yellow Pages less frequently than they do online search, the real reason for the move is likely more about revenues than convenience. At many major hotels, in-room high-speed Internet access (HSIA) is a paid commodity. According to a white paper by Nomadix, a BusinessWeek survey “respondents ranked HSIA as the second most important attribute they consider in making a hotel selection decision.” And according to Gartner Group, “there are 36 million business travelers in the U.S., 75% of whom carry laptops.”
Based on demand and the increasing number of business travelers who take laptops with them and spend greater amounts of time online using VoIP and Web-enabled services such as video and CRM connections, the demand for HSIA has increased dramatically. With a slowdown in the travel market, hotel chains often turn to what Hotel Executive Magazine calls secondary sources of revenue outside room rentals, including on-demand movies, valet parking, spa services and HSIA. Oftentimes these secondary revenue sources produce higher revenue gains as compared with room revenues. By eliminating the trusty Yellow Pages directory from hotel rooms, hotel chains make using the Internet a must when travelers are seeking local information and services. By increasing the demand, they greatly improve their ability to drive additional revenues in a key growth category.
With most mid- to upper-tier hotels charging for HSIA use, this becomes a significant secondary revenue source. So let’s call this trend what it really is — an expanded revenue opportunity for hotel chains that generates needed revenue as room profits decline. The reality of this move, however, ignores the needs of business and leisure travelers who want and need easy and free access to local businesses and services. That just doesn’t make sense.