Why are we still paying resort fees? Weren’t they supposed to go?
That’s what some travelers thought. Late last year, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a settlement with Marriott International that required the hotel chain to disclose controversial extras at the start of any reservation transaction.
“Hotels shouldn’t be able to add hidden charges to your bill at the last minute,” Shapiro said in a press release at the time. “Through this settlement, we are putting the hospitality industry on notice to end this misleading practice.”
Many mistakenly assumed that the settlement would kill all resort fees within months. But today, hotel resort fees — mandatory daily charges for items that should be included in your stay — remain prevalent. Marriott may be improving its disclosure, but the industry hasn’t followed suit.
The pandemic has forced some properties to temporarily waive their resort fees. According to the ResortFeeChecker site, 1,779 hotels in the United States charge resort fees, down about 17% from high water levels in 2018. But the trend is rapidly reversing as demand rebounds.
Eric Stone was one of many travelers who hoped the fee would go away this year. But when he recently checked into the Shelter Hotel in Los Angeles, the property added a mandatory $20 “service charge” to his bill. When he checked to see what the fee covered, he found a disclosure on his site that said it was for “certain amenities or facilities.”
“There was no effort to justify it,” says Stone, a retired nonprofit executive from Los Gatos, Calif. They might as well have said, “All room rates listed are actually $20 more than the amount listed.”
I contacted the hotel to find out about the mystery resort fee. He did not answer.
Hotels need the extra revenue from resort fees, says David Corsun, director of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver.
“Especially now,” he says. “Despite rising occupancy and rates, landlords, management companies and brands want and need profitability. Although resorts are doing better than city properties during the pandemic, all have to make up for the losses incurred during the shutdowns and the erosion of margins due to the higher wages they have to pay to attract talent.
If you see a hotel with a resort fee, but you don’t want to pay it, you have a choice.
“A simple call to the hotel ahead of time would help,” says John T. Peters, CEO of consulting firm Mind Mashery. “Often the booking agent or even the receptionist can help you avoid or reduce these charges. They might suggest you pay with a particular credit card to avoid charges. Sometimes resort fees are waived for premium loyalty members. What I mean is: it can’t hurt to ask.
You can also negotiate at the end of your stay, although it is a little more difficult.
“The best way to avoid a resort tax is to ask that it be removed because you’re not going to use it,” says Robert A. Rauch, CEO of RA Rauch & Associates, a consulting and hotel management. For example, if your hotel’s resort fee includes use of the property’s fitness center, but you don’t use the exercise bike or pool, you can request that they be removed. of your bill.
The flaw, as always, is disclosure. You have good reason to waive the fee if the hotel does not disclose the fee. I know of several instances where a credit card dispute resulted in the removal of an undisclosed resort fee.
Attitudes towards resort fees are also changing. Michael Rubino recently booked 10 rooms at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina for an employee meeting. Each room had a mandatory $35 resort fee. In four nights, he spent $1,400 on resort fees.
Rubino, president of a cleaning supplies company, says the amenities they could receive were specific. They included a daily $15 restaurant credit, wine tasting for two, and daily rentals of bikes, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks.
“Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed an increase in transparency in disclosing these fees when booking Marriott hotels that I and my employees have stayed at,” he says. “Before that, they weren’t as open.”
It’s too early to judge the effectiveness of Pennsylvania’s settlement, said Jacklin Rhoads, spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general. Marriott has until January to implement the changes. The company appears to be making progress: Rhoads says the Marriott site now allows users to click a box that generates all pricing information, including resort fees. Only 6% of Marriott properties currently charge resort fees, compared to a national average of 19%, according to Randy Greencorn, editor of ResortFeeChecker.
“We strongly believe that all charges should be disclosed up front,” Rhoads added. “Consumers need to know what pricing options are available to them early in their trip planning.”
There are several ongoing cases related to the disclosure of resort fees, according to Charles Leocha, president of consumer advocacy group Travelers United. He notes that some are still in the discovery phase and will not go to court until next year. “The process just takes time,” he says.
In the meantime, the best way to avoid paying resort fees is to avoid hotels that have them. If you’re unsure if your hotel charges one, check out ResortFeeChecker.com, which tracks them.
But there’s a good chance it is. “As hotel demand returns this year, we’ve seen a recent increase in the number of hotels charging resort fees,” says Greencorn. Over the past three months, he says, the number of hotels charging resort fees has increased by 7.2%.
Some hotels are heading in the opposite direction. Mohonk Mountain House, a resort in New Paltz, New York, lowered its resort fees by 15% per night late last year. Barbara Stirewalt, the resort’s vice president and general manager, said the resort wanted to provide “simpler and more transparent pricing for our guests.”
The hotel industry as a whole is not convinced. Resort fees are still there, and they’re going up. You will need to look carefully before booking.