Resort fees have always been annoying. Unlike things like gratuities that are often now added to a cruise bill, these fees are mandatory. When travelers who don’t use the phone, Internet, fitness center, parking, or whatever is included in the resort fee they, understandably, feel ripped off.
However, traveler unhappiness isn’t translating to lower fees and, in fact, resort fees seem to be both increasing both in number and in cost.
If hotels really need the revenue, one alternative would be for hotels just to fold the resort fee into the price of the room. But, that’s not going to happen. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Having a mandatory resort fee, at least for now, allows a hotel to advertise a lower rate to entice customers.
2. Resort fees can be charged on rooms that are free, either when travelers use miles or take advantage of Third-night-free or Two-rooms-for-the-price-of-one deals for families. (Note: Some hotels do waive fees for free nights, but not all.)
3. Resort fees are non-discountable — the hotel makes the same amount for each room, regardless if it is booked at full price or some kind of special sale price.
4. Resort fees are not commissionable. Both tour operators and travel agents alike usually get some commission from hotels, even if it’s only 5 to 10 percent. The extra money in the hotel’s coffers can add up.
5. Resort fees can be changed at will, and with minimum fanfare.
In a time of yield management, hotels can already adjust the price consumers see at any time. But it’s more obvious to shoppers, and many travelers who are comparison shopping may not even think about the fees until they have already booked.
6. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a fee ceiling. The St Regis in Puerto Rico charges $60 a night, while the Ritz Carlton San Juan charges 16 percent on top of the room rate, which can be over $100 a night for deluxe rooms in high season.
7. The fee can cover as much or as little as hotels want. A resort fee can cover parking, Internet and health club access, or one or none of the above. (A side tip — when parking is included, double check if it’s valet or self-parking only.) In addition, what’s covered in the fee can and does change, allowing hotels to micro-manage revenue for extras
At some point government regulators may step in as they have done with airlines for more all-inclusive advertised pricing.
In fact, in some ways one could argue hotels are even more deceptive and misleading, because the mandatory fees are often added to prebooked package rates, so travelers may actually arrive at the property before they realize they could be on the hook for several hundred more dollars.
Until and unless the government gets involved, however, expect the number and costs of resort fees to keep rising.