resort fee

Boycott this? It may not do you any good

Darren Bradley/Shutterstock
Darren Bradley/Shutterstock
When his favorite Las Vegas resort began charging a mandatory $14-per-day resort fee recently, Tom Alderman vowed he’d never return.

Alderman, a retired documentary filmmaker who lives in Toronto, had been visiting the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa since 2005, dropping about $600 for his weekly stays every time. He liked the hotel’s affordability and the fact that it promised to “never” charge these junk fees, which supposedly cover in-room wireless Internet access, use of the fitness center and “printing of boarding passes” — whether you use the amenities or not.

Until it did.
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Are hidden hotel fees about to check out?

After Jane Hatch selected the room rate she wanted at the West Street Hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine, the hotel Web site delivered an unpleasant surprise on the next screen: The quoted price hadn’t included a $25-per-day “resort and club fee” that gave Hatch access to the hotel pool, hot tub and fitness center — whether she wanted it or not.

“They didn’t tell me until the end,” says Hatch, who lives in Montgomery Village, Md. “I still booked the room, but it was misleading and unbecoming, particularly for a new property looking to make its mark. Perhaps they don’t care in resort areas like Bar Harbor. But I care.”
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Socked with a $450 resort fee — is that fair?

You owe more for your room, baby! / Photo by imaqine – Flickr

Resort fees fall under the category of “nuisance” surcharges because they’re usually so insignificant that they’re not worth fighting. And travel companies know it, which is one reason they keep piling ’em on.

But what happens when these extras rise to the level of a major expenditure?
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Hey, where did this resort fee come from?

Question: I checked into the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, and was unexpectedly charged a resort fee. I had booked the stay with my Starwood Preferred Guest points.

The desk staff could not have been less helpful when I questioned the fee. They advised, “It is mandatory on all rooms, whether paid with cash or points, and clearly indicated during booking.”

They also said the resort fee was required by Florida state law.
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Playing the media card in a resort fee dispute

When Dennis Kavanagh booked two nights by phone at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley, Calif., the agent quoted him a rate that didn’t include a small surprise: a $16-a-day “resort fee” that covered “free” local calls, a newspaper delivery, in-room coffee and teas, Internet access and use of the health club.

The fee is clearly but not prominently disclosed on the hotel’s site, but for some reason, the hotel reservation agent didn’t say a word about it. That turned out to be a big mistake.
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Yes, you can fight a resort fee — and win

Mandatory resort fees have been annoying hotel guests for almost as long as I’ve been covering the hotel industry, which is to say, a long time. But how do you persuade a property to remove these unwanted extras from your bill?

In the past, simply asking to have the additional $10 or $20 a night stricken from your bill was enough. Not anymore. Now, your friendly hotel clerk is far likelier to take a hard line when you’re checking out.
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Allegiant Air will now demonstrate how not to disclose a resort fee

Few airlines love fees more than Allegiant Air. The carrier literally charges you for anything that isn’t bolted down on the aircraft. But now now you can experience that kind of gratuitous unbundling, courtesy of Allegiant, when you buy a hotel through its site.

Carol Lyon did when she reserved a four-night stay at the MGM Grand Signature recently.

When I booked, it was solely because the price was very good. I was thrilled when I saw pictures and descriptions of the room. This trip is for my 60th birthday, and is on a very limited budget, so when I was reading on the MGM site and saw that about “resort fees” being $20 per night, I got worried.

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Casino steals page from airline playbook, swaps out resort fee for phone “processing fee”

Back in January, I noted with amusement that Harrah’s had issued a press release saying it does not “impose mandatory resort fees attached to a room reservation.”

At the time, I wondered why Harrah’s had phrased its announcement in exactly that way. Why not just say, “We’ve eliminated resort fees?” Also, it remained unclear why a large casino resort would turn down money from its guests that, at least according to the other casinos in town, they were more than willing to pay.

Well, yesterday I got the troubling answer to all of those questions.
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But no one told me about the resort fee!

Question: I’ve been booking hotel rooms through Hotwire recently, and I’ve been quite pleased with the site — until now. The last hotel charged a $25 per night resort fee, which included the “use of the spa.”

This was mandatory, even though we didn’t plan to use the spa, and had not been disclosed in the Hotwire booking process. I tried calling Hotwire about this and they simply kept saying, “It’s in our terms and conditions that hotels may charge separate fees for parking and resort fees.”

I understand that parking often constitutes an extra charge, but failing to disclose substantial, mandatory resort fees seems inappropriate. In theory, they could have tacked on $100 a night or more to our nonrefundable reservation, and we would have had no recourse. What do you think? — Sonja Johnson, San Francisco

Answer: The hotel shouldn’t charge you a mandatory “resort” fee. It shouldn’t charge anyone a resort fee, for that matter.

Resort fees are wrong on so many levels; it’s hard to know where to begin. A room rate should include all mandatory charges except maybe taxes (and I would argue that it ought to include taxes as well, but I digress). Resort fees — which are charged by some independent hotels for the use of anything from an exercise facility to beach towels — add anywhere from $10 to $30 to the per-night cost of your room.
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Vegas hotel + opaque site + resort fee = T-R-O-U-B-L-E

What do you get when you put a Las Vegas hotel, a mandatory resort fee and an opaque Web site together? If you said “trouble,” you’re absolutely correct.

Ben Huynh made a bid on a Priceline hotel in Las Vegas recently. He got the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, but he also was charged an additional, mandatory $15-a-night resort fee. He appealed to Priceline for a refund, but it turned him down, saying that the fee had been adequately disclosed in its terms and conditions.

Depending on the city and property you stay in, you may also be charged resort fees or other incidental fees, such as parking charges. These charges, if applicable, will be payable by you to the hotel directly at checkout. When you check in, a credit card or, in the hotel’s discretion, a debit card will be required to secure these charges and any incidental fees (phone calls, room service, movie rentals, etc.) that you may incur during your stay.

Huynh wanted to know if that was Priceline’s final answer.
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“Why can’t things be like that here?”

Tired of being shocked by a barrage of fees and taxes on your hotel bill — everything from “resort” fees to taxes and convenience charges? Then you might want to travel abroad. John Humbach did, and learned that sometimes, the price your quoted for a hotel room can be the price you pay. To the penny.

Or, in his case, to the euro.

I just returned from a business/pleasure trip to Vienna, and wanted to report my delight with a hotel experience. Not only did our central Vienna hotel have no fee for “services” we did not use or want, there was also no fee for in-room Wi-Fi or even — and I really had trouble absorbing this — the items we used from the minibar.

The bellhop practically insisted on taking our bags out of our taxi and up to our room (which I normally slightly resent, because we usually have only our easily rolled carry-ons that we manage to get around with everywhere else). But then he acted slightly stunned when, after he thoroughly introduced us to the room, I offered him a tip. He did take it, of course (after a moment or so), but then every time we saw him later he acted like our long-lost friend, and seemed very sincere in his gratitude.

When we got our bill at the end of our stay, it contained one item — our previously agreed room rate times four, for the four nights were were there. No extras, no separate taxes, no nothing. Just the room rate.

I was an amazingly refreshing experience.

Why can’t things be like that here?

Good question.

From a hotel’s perspective, there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from quoting an all-inclusive price. If it offers the actual room rate, including all taxes, fees and nonsense “resort” charges, then their customers might jump to a competitor who is quoting a base price minus the extras.

The only way to fix this problem is for a government or regulatory agency to step in and say: From now on, the price you give your customer is the price you must charge (minus optional extras like food and beverages). If that were to happen in the United States, I predict customer satisfaction scores would jump dramatically.

Just think: no more surprises. No more resort fees, in-room safe fees, fax delivery fees, bellhop fees, taxes, energy surcharges … the list goes on. None of that on our hotel bills.

Ah, to dream.

Is Travelocity in cahoots with hotels that charge resort fees?

Mandatory resort fees, as everyone knows by now, are completely evil. But do the avaricious hotels that charge them have a partner in crime? Yes, they do.

Online travel agencies are helping hotels get away with their misdeeds, say readers like Dennis Lovejoy. He recently booked a package through Travelocity that promised the price “includes items selected, including taxes and fees”. But it did not.

In an e-mail to Travelocity, he described his problem:

I believed my travel was paid in full. Then I noticed on my Travelocity statement that “incidental charges (parking, phone calls, room service or energy surcharges) will be handled directly between you and the hotel”.

I do not believe a “resort fee” that was forced on me is an incidental expense. If I had not been prepaid and needed a place to stay at the time, I may have got lodging elsewhere.

Travelocity’s response?

Dear Dennis,

Thank you for writing to Travelocity.

We understand that you wish to have information on incidental charges.

Per your request we reviewed your reservation for your trip to LAS VEGAS, NV and see that you have been charged only the incidental fees please be informed that you agreed to hotel rules and policies while booking your reservation. You have been charged as per hotel policies and hotel had charged to your card and not Travelocity.

Please feel free to write to us for any further information that you may require. We appreciate the opportunity to serve your travel needs.


Marcus T
Travelocity Customer Service

To which Lovejoy answered:

You miss the point. I may have agreed to hotel rules and policies. Other than ordinary incidental fees as described on your Web page, I did not agree to a “resort fee” of over $20 a night that I knew nothing about.

Had I known this info, I would have probably stayed at another place. The fees for your contract hotels need to be clearly listed and published for the consumer to make an educated decision on choosing a hotel. I did not use any of the amenities for the resort fee. I was not interested in them, but told I had to pay them. It resulted in about a 25% increase in my stay at this hotel.

I am writing not because I require information, I am trying to give you some information to make you website and service better. It is a circuitous way for the hotel to make more money while using Travelocity to advertise their rates, have the consumer pay based on that information and then “ding” them with more fees after you have committed. It is kind of like a “bait and switch” scheme.

Technically, it is a bait-and-switch scheme.

Travelocity should be able to keep a full list of resort fees in its database. It already quotes a total price on rental cars. Those surcharges should be clearly disclosed at the time of booking — even when you’re buying a package.

To tell someone that the price of a vacation includes all taxes and fees and then to change the rules of the game is a bad business practice, too.

But not as bad as failing to listen to a customer. Marcus T sent a boilerplate response to Lovejoy that completely sidestepped the issue.

He deserves a better answer.

Update (4/3): And he got one. Sort of. Late yesterday, the hotel contacted Lovejoy, apologized for the misunderstanding, and refunded the resort fee.