Have you been caught by surprise when checking out of your hotel by finding fees you hadn’t expected? Perhaps it was a $10 per day parking fee for a suburban hotel spot, a $40 a day resort fee, a $30 fee for checking into your room early or a $3 mini-bar restocking fee.
If so, you’re not alone.
TWITTER: Follow Barb on Twitter
MORE UNIQUE STORIES: What does the future of room service look like? (video)
MORE UNIQUE STORIES: Fave hotel pools include Four Seasons in Baltimore!
The hotel industry is on track this year to collect nearly $2.3 billion in fees – a record, according to veteran hotel industry watcher Bjorn Hanson, who’s been tracking the growing fee income stream for years and is a clinical professor with the NYU School of Professional Studies Preston Robert Tisch Center. (See table below.)
Hotels began adopting fees for a variety of things quietly in the late 1990s, but after the recession they became more commonplace – and Hanson said they are not going away. Hotels are hooked on them. Why? They’re essentially pure profit for them, he said.
This year’s $2.3 billion in industrywide fees represents a 6.5% increase from last year, with about half of the increase coming from the increase in rooms being sold, Hanson told me. The rest of the increase comes from beefed-up and new fees. Examples of new fees:
- Early arrival fees: If a customer checks in at 10 a.m. instead of 3 p.m. and their room is ready, the hotel might charge you an extra $30 to unlock your door early.
- Above-ground parking: Even suburban hotels with plenty of self-parking spots are making money, Hanson said. They’re gating the lots and charging people a daily parking fee, he said.
A quick check with my Facebook friends suggests that people are almost used to them by now – or they go out of their way to avoid them.
- Frequent flier Peter Chang said the Grand Hyatt New York charges a small fee ($3 or $5) each bag for storing luggage, and it’s waived for Diamond members.
- Vacationer Mindy Hofmann refused to pay the commonplace $20 per day resort fee that she found at most hotels in Orlando last week. So after doing exhaustive research, she booked the Drury Inn in Orlando. The hotel she chose for her family included Wi-Fi, parking, breakfast and even evening drinks and snacks. “I saved more than $100,” she told me.
- Frequent traveler Stacey Segal said she just paid a $31 resort fee at the Sheraton Waikiki. “It included self-parking, wifi, and water. I paid the same for Westin Maui, and Sheraton Kauai but they didn’t include the parking. At the Westin Las Vegas I paid a $10 fee for the hotel to accept my FedEx package.”
What frustrates many consumers is that they are being forced to pay some of the fees – especially resort fees – even if they don’t use the services included, such as the fitness center or tennis courts.
Traveler Donnita Cagle Bassinger has seen them in Las Vegas and Hawaii, and doesn’t like them.
“It is just a scam,” she said. “You are staying at those resorts because of their services, to charge a mandatory “Resort Fee” is just gauging the consumer.”
Travelers on corporate travel may not be charged as many fees – such as the daily Wi-Fi fee, because corporate travel managers can negotiate in advance to exempt their corporate employees. Frequent travelers also may get out of some of them if they have high enough loyalty status.
Readers: What’s the most absurd fee you’ve ever paid at a hotel? Name the hotel if you can.
Year Amount (in billions)
2014 $2.3 (forecast)
Source: Bjorn Hanson of New York University