Hotel Internet and Uber

Via Samizdata (and others), it appears Italy has banned Uber:

An Italian court banned the Uber app across the country on Friday ruling that it contributed unfair competition to traditional taxis. In a court ruling, a Rome judge upheld a complaint filed by Italy’s major traditional taxi associations, preventing Uber from using its Black, Lux, Suv, XL, Select and Van services from operating within the country.

In my recent post on Budapest I said:

I think in a few years we’ll be at a stage where a city not having Uber will start to cost it dearly in terms of visitor numbers.

I remember back in 2004-2006 when I did lots of business travel one would have to check in advance whether a hotel would have internet in the rooms. In those days this meant an ADSL connection in the wall and (sometimes) a cable, and not all hotels had them. In December 2005 I went to Korea and found the (wonderful) hotel had a 100mbs ADSL connection in the room that required no login or faffing about whatsoever, and they didn’t even bother to advertise it. When I went back to Seoul a couple of years later I said:

When I booked the hotel, I couldn’t see whether it had internet connections in the rooms or not.  It mentioned kettles, ironing boards, and hairdryers, but no internet connection.  So I called them up, and I was told they had one in every room.  I seem to remember when I last stayed in Seoul they didn’t advertise the internet connections in the rooms, and this place seems to be no different.  Clearly internet connections in Korean hotel rooms are as standard as doors, windows, and beds.  Sure enough, this place, like my last hotel, has a 100Mbps connection which costs absolutely nothing and works as soon as you hook the cable up to your computer.  No ringing the front desk for usernames, no messing about with passwords, simply plug in and off you go.

I cite this passage because it shows how unusual it was back then to find a functional internet connection in a hotel room even as late as 2007. Within a few years an internet connection became standard everywhere, and shortly afterwards this transformed into a WiFi option which eventually became standard. It may be the case that some hotels still charge for it, some require fiddly logon procedures, and the quality can vary but it is almost unheard of nowadays to find a hotel without WiFi, and it is usually free and often good. I suspect in the age of iPads and WhatsApp, any hotel that didn’t offer WiFi both in the rooms and common areas would quickly go out of business: people simply don’t use the telephone or even wired internet these days.

I reckon in a few years we’ll be seeing the same thing with Uber, or at least a very similar service that works in much the same way. If Uber can survive a little longer, we will soon have a demographic that has only used Uber and is completely unfamiliar with the archaic practices and unwanted delights of a traditional taxi service, and will not contemplate using the latter any more than they would accept having no internet in a hotel room and instead have to use the single desktop in the hotel “business centre” with a broken mouse and an AZERTY keyboard left in Cantonese mode by the last user.

I give it five years, ten at the most, before cities where Uber is banned and no similar alternative exists start to see a serious reduction in visitor numbers. Like having a decent internet connection, being able to use an Uber-like service will soon become a key requirement of a holiday.

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19 thoughts on “Hotel Internet and Uber

  1. An Italian court banned the Uber app across the country on Friday ruling that it contributed unfair competition to traditional taxis.

    Europe summarised in one concise sentence.

  2. The sharing economy is here and its gaining market share at a phenomenal rate. Long term rentier systems are being destroyed, taxi licence, hotel licence (Airbnb) etc etc. Economically you cannot seriously expect to be a supplier of anything if you are not sharing it across the internet of all things. This is incredibly stimulatory for the economy.

    Take Uber

    “Given Indian has been the second largest market for the company with local operations here accounting for 12% of its global market share, it is clear where Uber’s priorities lie. With currently 400,000 drivers on the platform and a plan to add around a million more in two years, means some good tidings are in store for India”

    https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/283142

    Did you see that, it said one million more drivers!

    How do you teach one million Indians to drive a car, when the majority have never driven one, never mind buying a smartphone and using sat nav technology.

    Their rival ANI has just put on half a million drivers and is looking for another five million by 2020. Bet you seen the number this time.

    You can share buy a Cadillac now.

    Anyway we will be flying our cars soons as well with the Singaporean and Dubai government showcasing human-carrying drones. Google Hoversurf, Scorpion Volocopter, Ehang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle from China.

  3. I said this to someone about wifi and about how I remember signs in cafes in the 70s advertising that a cafe had a toilet. It’s now the opposite – you’d have to tell people if you didn’t have a toilet.

    I’m not sure it would make a lot of difference to me. I generally use public transport for leisure and for a few tickets on a trip to a city, it wouldn’t stop me going there for lots of trade. I think the effect on local citizens is bigger. People who liked riding Uber and saving £10 a week on a night out are more likely to vote for someone promising to allow Uber to operate. So, that will come in to elections over the next decade or so.

  4. I think in a few years we’ll be at a stage where a city not having Uber will start to cost it dearly in terms of visitor numbers.

    Yes, market forces are market forces in the end.

  5. “Like having a decent internet connection, being able to use an Uber-like service will soon become a key requirement”

    That’s actually what the $68 billion Uber bet is. That it becomes part of the essential plumbing of a civilised life, just a general part of the expected infrastructure.

  6. Don’t bet against vested interests and a corrupt, compliant media backing them. You’d be amazed at what people can be led to believe.

  7. “Don’t bet against vested interests and a corrupt, compliant media backing them.”

    For sure, but demand will trump supply restriction every time. Yee cannae change the laws of physics. In China they can just about sell your organs if you get caught buying a second house in some cities, yet they still do.

  8. I’m in India. Taxi drivers tend to only speak one of the thousands of local dialects, hardly ever know where they are going unless it’s within 200m of where you got in, whereas uber on the other hand works, never mind what language you speak (though drivers still insist on ringing you and are surprised when you say you are exactly where the app tells them to be).

    As for driving standards, well, it’s India. At least with uber you get some clue with their star rating. Taxis are no better or worse, and Ubers actually have a better chance of being a modern vehicle which has seat belts- car loans for uber drivers are a thing here, it’s an income stream which means drivers are credit worthy to banks, compared with most other things which are cash in hand and provide no mechanism to assess risk. So yes, Uber and competitors here are revolutionising the concept here, and now have enough critical mass that TPTB messing too much with the concept know it will come back to bite them.

    It appears to me that the west is busy trying to eradicate progress whilst here, uber is eradicating poverty.

  9. Seriously? We’re not talking about Paraguay or Ghana, we’re talking about ITALY.

    While I think this development is appalling, the lack or presence of Uber is utterly irrelevant to any calculations I might make about vacationing in Italy.

    A complete lack of for-hire transportation (i.e., taxis) might affect my thinking, but this? No.

  10. While I think this development is appalling, the lack or presence of Uber is utterly irrelevant to any calculations I might make about vacationing in Italy.

    Well, yeah. People will visit Rome regardless, if they want to go to Rome. Ditto Milan, Naples, etc. But a lot of European tourism is spur-of-the-moment stuff, checking out a town which isn’t necessarily a “must see” place. There will be such places in Italy, and I expect they’ll suffer.

    Plus, I’d be willing to bet you’re somebody who is wholly familiar with traditional taxis, i.e. not somebody who has only really known Uber.

  11. That’s actually what the $68 billion Uber bet is. That it becomes part of the essential plumbing of a civilised life, just a general part of the expected infrastructure.

    Yup, that.

  12. Tim, I take your point about some of the smaller places in Italy. And, I did not weigh the degree to which a weekend jaunt to Italy is, for an Austrian, a lot like me taking a quick trip to Pittsburgh.

    But … there are Uber uses who don’t know what taxis are? Hmmm …

  13. But … there are Uber uses who don’t know what taxis are? Hmmm …

    Not yet. I know internet users who don’t know what dial-up was. In a few years there will be people who don’t know what internet over ADSL was. I expect there are already people who have never had more than a dozen conversations using a fixed-line phone.

  14. When I was in Copenhagen with my family last year, we used Uber to get around as my time was limited and I had no inclination to work out the bus system and drag two young children on it. It was pretty decently priced for what is a stunningly expensive city. However Uber announced that they are pulling out of Denmark in April because all taxis now need to have meters and seat sensors for occupancy monitoring and they can’t comply. The disruptor has been regulated out of existence by the existing taxi drivers and unions applying huge pressure to politicians.

    I keep saying to people that the only limits to technology and innovation are legal and regulatory. The loom-wreckers above just prove my point.

  15. “Seriously? We’re not talking about Paraguay or Ghana, we’re talking about ITALY.”

    I think Europeans need to realise that its main economic attraction these days is being a place where wealthy BRIC’s, Yanks and Aussies come to visit, dine, buy Venetian glass, look at old buildings, take some selfies and leave. They probably take limousines anyway. As for Italy and they being a manufacturing economy their economy is in secular decline. We had this discussion on the UK Nissan car manufacturing thread.

    Italy and the rest of Europe will struggle through the transition from a manufacturing to an information economy but they will get back up to their pre-GFC’s levels, which will be miles behind the BRIC’s growth rates.

    The Mafiosa are struggling with the new sharing, caring type of hoodlum on the block, some Don’s will need to be whacked, just like when the demand for drugs shot up and the organisational transition, whilst bloody and measured in decades, did eventually take place.

    And as for Africa, well you just watch them fly out of starters block in this start up phase of the information based economy.

    IBM to train 25 million Africans for free to build workforce

    http://www.fin24.com/Tech/News/ibm-to-train-25-million-africans-for-free-to-build-workforce-20170209

  16. Don’t bet against vested interests and a corrupt, compliant media backing them. You’d be amazed at what people can be led to believe.

    True, but they normally get overtaken if the product is truly ground-breaking. I remember when Etisalat, the national telecoms operator in the UAE, banned Skype on the grounds that it “wasn’t secure” and the altruistic folk in the government didn’t want residents’ phone calls being listened in on. Naturally, that meant they had to use Etisalat’s rather pricey fixed lines and mobiles for their international calls.

    They have since extended the bans to Facetime, WhatsApp, Viber, etc. However, this is looking more embarrassing with every passing year.

  17. Italy and the rest of Europe will struggle through the transition from a manufacturing to an information economy but they will get back up to their pre-GFC’s levels, which will be miles behind the BRIC’s growth rates.

    I don’t know about China and India, but Brazil’s economy has taken a clobbering in the wake of the Petrobras corruption scandal and Russia has only just been avoiding recession for some time now. Considering how low the base is for Russia, this is pretty appalling.

    And as for Africa, well you just watch them fly out of starters block in this start up phase of the information based economy.

    There are a lot of people who think Africa will become an economic powerhouse as soon as their “potential” is realised. Having worked in Africa, I’m of the opinion they’ve pretty much realised it already.

    IBM to train 25 million Africans for free to build workforce

    Good luck to ’em.

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