Around two thirds of hotels worldwide are still charging guests for wi-fi access – with rates as high as $12 per hour and $30 per day – research has shown.
With a large number of bars, cafés, and even branches of McDonald's and Starbucks now offering free wi-fi to customers, hotels are facing growing criticism over the high charges that many continue to impose.
London's Daily Telegraph analysed wi-fi charges at more than 30 different hotel chains, and at dozens of individual hotels, to uncover those that levy the highest fees and those that offer the service free of charge.
Out of more than 70 different hotel groups and individual properties contacted in the survey, just 24 do not impose wi-fi charges.
Luxury hotels in London were the worst offenders, with several charging £20 ($A29.50) for 24-hour wi-fi access. These included Grosvenor House and the Firmdale Hotels group – which owns six upmarket properties in London, such as The Haymarket and Number Sixteen. At The Dorchester, the only option is a charge of £19.50 ($A29.70) per day.
W Hotel charges guests at its Leicester Square property £5.95 ($A8.77) an hour or £17 ($A25) a day, while its Istanbul, Barcelona and Hong Kong hotels charge €15 ($A18.40), €19 ($A23.40) and HK$115 ($A13.70) per day respectively, although free access is available in some public areas.
Hotels in the Holiday Inn chain charge guests up to £15 ($A22) a day in Britain and up to €24 ($A29.50) a day in Europe, although in the majority of its hotels in the United States, wi-fi access is complimentary.
The highest hourly rate uncovered was €10 ($A12.30), a charge imposed by several Marriott hotels, including the AC Hotel in Florence and the JW Marriott in Cannes.
Towards the lower end of the market, Travelodge charges guests £5 an hour or £10 a day, while guests at Barceló Hotels must pay £6.50 an hour, or £15 a day.
TalkTalk, the internet service provider, estimated that the cost to a business, such as a hotel, of providing broadband, would range from £10 a month for a small property to £300 a month for a 100-room property, or £700 a month for a larger, 300-room property.
At the 195-room Dorchester, for example, where room rates start at around £300 a night, the monthly cost of providing wi-fi to the entire hotel is likely to be covered by two bookings, or around 30 people purchasing a day's wi-fi access.
Not all of the capital's luxury hotels levy such high charges. The Maybourne Group, which owns Claridge's, The Connaught and The Berkeley, doesn't charge for wi-fi access, and neither does 45 Park Lane, nor The Halkin, The Metropolitan or One Aldwych.
Among hotel chains offering free wi-fi are Best Western, Malmaison, De Vere, Radisson Edwardian, and Brittania. Premier Inns charge guests just £3 a day, and offer them 30 minutes' free daily access.
A number of other hotels have adopted a dual policy, where guests can log on to a slower network free of charge or pay extra for high-speed access. The Langham, where the high-speed access costs £20 per day, and the Sofitel chain, where it costs £15, are two examples.
The falling cost of broadband services in recent years has highlighted the issue of high hotel charges for wi-fi access; travellers now increasingly expect the service to be including in their room rate.
At last year's Abta Travel Convention, David Rowan, the editor of Wired UK, the technology magazine, called for travellers to boycott hotels that charge for wi-fi.
"Travellers understandably feel fleeced by such high charges," said Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel's consumer correspondent. "If pubs and cafés can offer free wi-fi to their customers, who might spend just £2 on a coffee, why can't hotels that charge guests £200 a night do the same?"
Perowne Charles Communications, a PR company specialising in travel, said it will not work with hotels that still charge for wi-fi access. "Free wi-fi should come as standard in a hotel these days," said Paul Charles, the company's chief executive. "Hotels that continue to defy the odds will be losers in the long term because customers will go elsewhere."
A spokesman for the British Hospitality Association said luxury hotels charge more for wi-fi because affluent guests are less likely to complain about the cost.
"It's a commercial decision, and entirely up to the hotel," he said. "Many owners regard wi-fi charges as a legitimate revenue source, and considering the size of some hotels, it can be a very lucrative one."
- The Telegraph, London