Resort fees: The travel industry’s hidden charges
Congress is considering ways to get rid of the often impenetrable and hidden resort fee, “the most hated fee in travel,” said David Oliver in USA Today. A House bill would “force companies to more accurately reflect the price of hotel rooms” by including those mandatory fees that resorts frequently tack on to the end of the bill. Those charges—variously called resort fees, destination fees, or facility fees—“include a bundle of services guests have come to expect during a hotel stay,” such as Wi-Fi and access to the pool and gym. In some locations, such as Las Vegas, the surcharge can routinely cost upwards of $50 per night. Unfortunately, many hotel websites, as well as third-party sites such as Priceline and Expedia, only prominently display the base room prices in search results. The surcharge is hidden in later pages or appears only in much-smaller print.
In addition to hotels, cruise lines have become notorious for these kinds of sneaky mandatory add-ons, said Christopher Elliott, also in USA Today. “Most of the major nonluxury cruise lines automatically add anywhere between $11.50 and $16 a day as a tip,” which isn’t often listed in cruise fares. There are “room service” fees on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises. There’s even a mandatory 20 percent gratuity slapped on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ “Free at Sea” drinks package, which can add up to $280 for two people on a weeklong cruise.
Maybe you think you’re immune from such fees because you don’t take cruises, or because you “book vacations at hotels that don’t have a ton of amenities like pools and spas and drinks with tiny umbrellas in them,” said Lisa Rowan in Lifehacker.com. “Think again. No one is immune!” This isn’t really about extra services that a fancy hotel might provide. A hotel doesn’t have to have any resort-like features. The whole point is just to lure you in with an attractive room rate, and then when you see the total tab, to leave you thinking, “Oh, well. At least I got a good price for the room.”
As this bill winds its way through Congress, is there any way around fees currently? asked Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Well, some hotels, such as Hilton and Hyatt, do “waive resort fees on rooms booked by using points earned in their rewards programs,” although Marriott does not. “Travelers who have ‘elite’ status at some loyalty programs may have the fees waived as well.” Otherwise, the best way to avoid fees is to double-check the final price of your room before you book. ■