By Dave Williams
The internet is changing the way tourists travel in New Zealand, hurting motels and visitor centres, a tourism survey suggests.
Tourism New Zealand's Visitor Experience Monitor, released today, summed the responses of 4566 visitors who came here in 2011/12.
Fewer people are using travel agents and instead going through websites before coming to New Zealand.
They are increasingly using technology while here; just 8 percent did not use a laptop or mobile phone, either something they already owned or a device they bought here.
Tourists were increasingly expecting businesses to offer wireless internet, said Tourism NZ corporate affairs general manager Chris Roberts.
That meant internet cafes were also less of a destination as they expected to be able to access from their own devices.
Despite the increasing use of the internet, once they were here, after checking their guidebooks, visitors were more likely to take advice from real people - hotel and motel staff, visitor centres and locals they know.
The use of i-Sites is declining, with 41 percent of those surveyed visiting them, down from 56 percent two years ago.
Mr Roberts said it was not signalling the death of visitor centres, but they should be concentrating on adding value.
"Our recommendation is they embrace technology, not see it as their competitor... provide free wi-fi in your i-Site then they can get it on their device and then you can assist them."
i-Sites were proving valuable in that people enjoyed using them and they offered more in-depth local knowledge, he said.
The survey also found fewer visitors are using motels, down from 32 percent to 29 percent, while the number of people staying at private homes or with friends had risen from 34 percent to 37 percent.
The decline in motel use was put down to the rise of holiday houses and bach booking services - again over the internet, which were competing on price, and also the fact that motels were not well understood by increasing numbers of visitors from Asia and Europe, Mr Roberts said.