Agency groups object to Marriott policy for free WiFi

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Marriott International’s plan to offer free WiFi only to customers who book through Marriott-owned channels has drawn criticism from at least two travel agency groups.

ASTA and Signature Travel Network say they’ve contacted Marriott to express their displeasure about the policy, which is slated to go into effect Jan. 15.

ZaneKerby“The policy discriminates against consumers who use travel agencies and is not likely to be well received by them,” ASTA CEO Zane Kerby wrote in a letter to members last week. “Marriott’s plan to offer free WiFi as an inducement to travelers who book direct with a Marriott brand or through Marriott.com will disadvantage loyal travelers who use the travel agency distribution channel.”

Signature Travel Network CEO Alex Sharpe said in a statement,“We applaud Marriott’s decision to reward repeat guests with complimentary access, but we are sincerely concerned regarding their decision to circumvent professional travel consultants.

“As an industry that is built on repeat and referral business, we hope Marriott recognizes that many of their most frequent and valuable guests are customers of travel consultants. More specifically, they are the clients of travel consultants who have originally brought them to the Marriott brand.”

Marriott appears to be using the policy to address distribution costs, which are lowest through direct channels. Hotels can pay anywhere from 10% to 25% of room revenue to traditional agents and online travel agencies.

Marriott’s new policy applies to full-service brands Marriott, JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Gaylord and Autograph Collection. Edition and Marriott's select-service properties already provide free WiFi.

Representatives with Marriott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Travel Weekly on Monday.

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