Hidden charges: Hotels follow airlines in adding extra fees
Extra fees worked so well for airlines that now hotels are starting to do it.
Nancy Trejos at USA Today reported on just how well airlines have done adding fees to just about everything: "Airlines throughout the world reported making $22.6 billion in fees for add-ons such as extra services and frequent-flier programs in 2011, a $20 billion jump since 2007, according to a review by IdeaWorks Company, a consulting firm that specializes in so-called ancillary revenue, and Amadeus, which processes transactions for the travel industry. For some airlines, such as Spirit, that makes up more than 30 percent of their total revenue. U.S. airlines in the first half of this year collected $1.7 billion in baggage fees alone, according to the Transportation Department. Delta led the pack with $430 million. United followed with $351 million."
So in a down economy, hotels could smell the blood in the water.
- Towels at the pool
- Business center, fitness room "Resort fee"
- Housekeeping, bellman gratuity fees
- Water and newspapers
- Early check in or out/extended cancellation
- Shuttle service
- Bartenders gratuity fees
- Room block fees
How are hotels doing with fees like this?
Hugo Martin with the Los Angeles Times looked at the numbers: "The nation's hotel industry is expected to collect $1.95 billion this year from such things as Internet fees, telephone surcharges, business center fees and resort fees, according to a study by New York University professor Bjorn Hanson. That revenue represents a 5 percent increase from last year, when hotels amassed $1.85 billion, said Hanson, a hospitality expert who attributed the 2012 rise to improved hotel occupancy rates and higher charges for many of the same services."
Clem Bason, a Fox News contributor from Hotwire.com, says: "Most of these charges are for added services that patrons aren't required to use, such as parking, WiFi, gyms, etc. You can avoid the cost by not using the services. Some visitors, however, expect these services to be complimentary, and finding out otherwise when they're already on vacation can cause sticker shock."
Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott talked about some of these fees on his blog and how to kill them. "If you find yourself staring down one of these surcharges at check-out, you should protest — first to the front-desk employee, then to a manager, and finally to your credit-card company," he says. "Common sense is your most effective weapon against these unreasonable fees. Not only are they often improperly disclosed, but they also fly in the face of reason. The cost of your room should include housekeeping. Use of a concierge or bellhop should be optional, not mandatory. Explain to a manager that if they ever want your business again, the fees must be removed. Immediately."
Elliott says many fees are kept hidden because the hotel hopes you won't notice. "Given the surprise nature of these bizarre charges, negotiating them off your bill shouldn't be too difficult," he says. "A property charging mandatory resort fees, valet fees, safe fees or energy fees doesn't just hate its customers — it probably also has a death wish."