Hotel resort fees: Deceiving customers while asking them to take a leap of faith
Hotels are charging resort fees without any need to disclose the amount upfront. This is a mandatory fee on top of the rate of a room. Yet, if trying to book a room online, for instance, a customer won’t see the resort fee until after clicking on the “book now” button. Basically, the hotel is telling the customer, “trust us,” all the while knowing what you saw is not what you are going to get.
So until then, you’re basically booking in the blind, because that resort fee could be anywhere from US$9 to $100 or really any dollar amount the hotel chooses to set the fee at. But you won’t know that upfront.
In the string of lawsuits that is forming, Hilton is the current hotel being sued over resort fees. The Nebraska Attorney General alleges that Hilton’s deceptive and misleading pricing practices and failure to disclose fees harmed consumers and violated Nebraska’s consumer protection laws. The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to force Hilton to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms up front, provide monetary relief to harmed Nebraska consumers, and pay civil penalties.
Nebraska’s research found that “At least 78 Hilton properties in the United States currently charge these hidden fees, which range from $15 to as much as $45 per room per night, and consumers only find out about these fees after they begin to book a room” and that “resort fee disclosures are often hidden in obscure areas, confusingly worded, or presented in smaller print than the advertised rates.”
Charging for these fees is one thing. Disclosing them is another. Not all hotels abide by transparency in citing fees. Or to be more precise, the information is there, but will you be able to easily find it before booking a room and calculating the total cost? Most hotel chains advertise prices that do not include resort fees, so comparison shopping becomes impossible.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine previously filed a lawsuit against Marriott for hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and for charging hidden resort fees to increase profits. He argued that this practice has harmed consumers, and he wants to force Marriott to advertise the true price for their hotels up-front, as well as provide monetary relief to DC consumers who have been harmed by this policy.
A resort fee is not something that is optional. It should be part of the room rate. There is no valid reason to separate it out, except for a couple of very important reasons.
While hotels are required to pay tax on resort fees, the cost charged to them by booking sites such as expedia only factors in the advertised room rate which does not include the resort fee. Same for travel agents – they earn commission based on the advertise room rate, which again, does not include the resort fee.
That’s a very tidy lot of savings for the hotels.
Resort fees can include such obscure costs for things like parking – even if you park your car yourself, room safe – even if you don’t use it, the swimming pool – even if you don’t stick a toe in the water, and online booking – yep, it’s gonna cost you often times $25 a night for using that convenience.
On the Internet, where seemingly anyone can find any bit of information about anything, the last disclosed information on what hotels took in only in the name of resort fees goes back to 2017. Back then, they raked in a cool US$2.47 billion.
It is about time the government stepped in to take on hotel resort fees. The issue is not about charging a resort fee. The issue is about readily disclosing the fee when advertising room prices. And not after clicking the booking button, but from the very get go.