Hotels are charging exorbitant rates for Wi-Fi and guests are much better off paying for mobile internet, a consumer advocate says.
A survey of New Zealand's top central-city hotels, as rated by Five Star Alliance, has found only two offer free wireless internet in rooms - despite some exclusive suites costing more than $2000 a night.
The other top hotels either make guests buy packets of data or charge up to $45 a day.
The rates compare poorly with mobile data plans, which give 1GB of data for an average of $20 a month.
Jeff Thompson, who lived in a central Auckland hotel apartment when he moved from Britain, said he was charged $15 a day despite being a long-term resident.
"I thought it was scandalous. I've stayed in places all over the world and I've never been charged in my life for internet access."
He said visitors to New Zealand would assume hotels offered free internet - and would be surprised to learn otherwise.
Telecommunications Users' Association chief executive Paul Brislen said the rates were "astronomical".
"It's outrageous ... I don't think hoteliers really appreciate how important [Wi-Fi] is to travellers. It impacts on tourism quite badly, I would suspect."
Mr Brislen said the services available could also be painfully slow.
"I've occasionally been suckered into buying quite a bit of data and then finding that it just doesn't go very fast - so you end up with 1GB of data you can't use."
He said the huge charges were even more surprising, as free Wi-Fi was widely available at cafes and other places in many main centres.
Guests were better off using mobile internet, which cost an average of about $20 a month for 1GB.
Mr Brislen said that would be "at full 3G speed, you're not being throttled or limited, and you've got all the convenience of being able to use it wherever you like. Wi-Fi should be dramatically cheaper than that".
People needed to tell hotels how they felt about the high rates.
"The best way to influence them is to vote with your wallet and say, 'I would have loved to stay at your hotel, but you offer a rip-off rate for Wi-Fi."'
Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden disagreed that free Wi-Fi was the norm overseas, saying he had been charged as much as $30 a day during a recent trip to Europe and America.
He said consumer demand for free Wi-Fi would affect what hotels offered, and the industry was gradually changing to meet expectations.
"We're already seeing it in some places, where they are prepared to offer free Wi-Fi now."
Wi-Fi availability would increas-ingly become a deciding factor in where people stayed.
"Will it affect tourism? No, I don't think so. I just think the visitor will from time to time make a decision to go to one accommodation provider instead of another - it doesn't affect tourism overall."
How they compare
Hotel internet rates
*SkyCity Grand Hotel, Auckland, $15-$45 (day, with data caps), $75 (2 wks for 2GB).
*The Hilton, Auckland, $29 (day), $14.50 (2 hrs) $115 (1 wk).
*The Langham, Auckland, $24.95 (day), $9.95 (hour), $79.95 (wk).
*Hotel Intercontinental, Wellington, $29.90 (day) $20 (2 hrs) $10 (30 mins).
*Vodafone: $20 a month for 1GB on account, $30 a month for 512MB prepaid.
*Telecom: $30 a month for 750MB on account, $25 a month for 500MB prepaid.
*2degrees: $20 a month for 1GB prepaid.
- APNZBy Matthew Backhouse @Mbackhouse Email Matthew