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Wi-Fi top demand for Canadian travellers

Gail Johnson
Pay Day

When Canadians go to get away from it all, they want to stay connected. Topping the menu of must-have hotel amenities is free Wi-Fi, according to Hotels.com’s latest Global Amenities Survey, with 70 per cent of Canucks putting it on their wish list.

That’s a trend that travel experts see playing out all the time.

“It’s very clear that one of the amenities that our travellers are looking for more and more is free Wi-Fi,” says llana Valo, vice president of the Travel Network Corp., which has offices in Toronto and Montreal.

“A lot of hotels are offering it, but a lot are still very slow to get onboard and it’s becoming issue. Now we’re seeing luxury hotels that used to charge very high premiums starting to include it, realizing it’s just part of doing business.”

Other Canadian results of Hotels.com’s annual survey:

  • 50 per cent are willing to pay for a room with a view
  • 46 per cent want complimentary bottled water in their hotel rooms
  • 38 per cent picked happy hour and wine tastings as their favourite new offering
  • 26 per cent say high-end coffee makers or espresso machines are their preferred in-room luxury
  • 23 per cent say designer toiletries are their favourite little luxury, followed by pool towel service and cabanas (22 per cent) and high-end fitness centres (21 per cent)

“Hotels keep raising the bar higher and higher, and people are constantly looking for new experiences,” Valo says. “Little things -- like bottled water when you leave the hotel or at turndown, a bowl of apples so people can take one on their way out, coffee and tea in the mornings to read with their paper -- people love. They don’t like to be nickeled and dimed all the time. They like the small offerings.

And if you're paying top dollar for luxury accommodation, a little goes a long way. “If you go somewhere, say a resort destination like the Four Seasons, you’ll be sitting by the pool and somebody will bring by a cold towel or a fruit kabob or a little dish of ice cream to enhance their experience,” she adds. “It’s added value.”

The survey also found that 31 per cent of Canadians would like to see free breakfast in all hotels in 2013. While that’s not likely to happen, Valo says it’s a trend that is growing.

“Our clients have really become accustomed to breakfast included,” she says. “It’s not necessarily an amenity that all hotels provide, but certain travel agencies have partnerships with various hotels. When you get breakfast in your stay you get that added bonus. A typical breakfast can be anywhere from $25 to $45, depending on where you’re staying.”

The most extravagant hotel amenity Canadians are intrigued by is the complimentary use of a Rolls Royce Phantom, with 54 per cent hoping to experience a ride. That’s a courtesy that guests at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris can expect; the car even has a custom interior designed by Hermes.

Again, wishful thinking, although some high-end hotels are offering airport shuttles via swanky cars. Take Toronto’s Templar Hotel, which has a Porsche Panamera. Still, the use of a hotel car is a service that’s often overlooked.

“A lot of leisure travellers aren’t aware that some hotels do have a house car that provides transportation to nearby dining or shopping destinations,” Valo says. “More hotels in Paris are offering transfers to and from the airport with minimum stays.”

Canadians are cool on mini bars, with 35 per cent saying they aren’t worth the hype or price. Some luxury hotels, though, are throwing in free mini bar items. The Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, for instance, stocks its rooms with nonalcoholic drinks and snacks like trail mix nuts, while Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants lets loyalty-program members “Raid the Mini Bar”— up to $10 per stay. That should be enough for a small bottle of water and a chocolate bar.