The very first thing I do when I enter a new hotel room isn’t to go straight to the window to check out the view, test-bounce the bed a couple of times or look into the bathroom to see whether the toiletries are Molton Brown or Gilchrist & Soames. It’s the boring old Hotel Services directory I snatch up the moment I drop my suitcase, to flick through to ‘Internet’ and find out whether my memories of this place are going to be fondly rose-tinted, or suffused with a red mist.
Mostly, it’s the rage. With some noble exceptions, exorbitant connection charges are still standard in most of the hotels I’ve stayed at in this part of the world, and it makes me go fuzzy at the edges with anger and frustration. Access to free, fast, reliable WiFi ought to be as standard in hotel rooms as the provision of toilet paper. It should be like electricity and water: factored into the room rate as a normal facility, and unthinkable not to provide it. Personally, I would give up the 1000-count sheets that, being asleep, I’m mostly unconscious of, the fluffy robe and silly scuffs that I never wear, and the huge noisy spa bath that takes forever to fill, if I could instead settle down to reading my emails, posting to my blog, checking up on the news at home and generally behaving as though I live in the 21st century and not some 1980s outpost where the closest thing to email is airmail.
I find it impossible to understand why budget hostels and five-star luxury lodges have seen the light, while mid-range hotels still seem to think that business travellers on expense accounts are the only ones who might need access to the internet. At these places it’s generally necessary to buy, at eye-watering expense, some kind of card or to sign up for a chunk of time that has to be used in one go; and even then as often as not you have to be anchored to a desk by a LAN cable instead of comfortably surfing in bed. And when WiFi is available, there’s a Basil Fawlty attitude to problems: patchy access? Fitful operation? You’re lucky we have it at all! And no, there’ll be no discount or repair if it stops working altogether. Come and camp in the lobby hotspot with your laptop and be grateful!
Pamela Wade has been travel writing for the last eight years, during which time she's been lost in Lima, slept in a swag beside a crocodile-infested river in Australia and - just for balance - rattled round in a six-room suite in the Hong Kong Peninsula. Her stories regularly appear in a wide range of newspapers and magazines in NZ and occasionally in the UK and Australia. She was recently re-elected President of NZ Travel Communicators, won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year award in 2009, and writes a travel-related blog.
I plan to start a register of all hotels who do not make a surcharge for WiFi which I will post on my blog from time to time so if any of my readers have experienced free WiFi at hotels then let me know by way of comment and I'll add to the register.
And my warm thanks to Pamela Wade for her succinct and timely story and for her permission to reproduce it here on my blog.