Why hard times may prompt new hotel fees



What’s the next big hotel fee going to be?

Will hotels ramp up mandatory resort fees? Add new extras for daily housekeeping? Or maybe just raise their room rates?

The hotel industry is poised to start charging new fees, according to Garrett Peppelman, head of growth at hotel software developer Xenia. 

“We are in the middle of two major events: COVID and the inflationary environment,” he explained. “Hoteliers had to cut average daily rates by up to 60 percent during the pandemic.”

In other words, they need money. Your money.

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Prepare for a daily housekeeping charge

Mary Barbuto thinks mandatory daily housekeeping charges are on the way. Hotels cut back on daily housekeeping during the pandemic. Why not bring them back – for a small fee?

“Hotels are looking for any way to nickel and dime their guests,” said Barbuto, a retired marketing executive and frequent hotel guest from Potomac, Maryland.

She saw the signs on a recent stay at a chain hotel in Norfolk, Virginia. Her hotel asked her to make arrangements in advance to have her room cleaned during her visit. But she expects the hotel to charge her for the privilege soon.

She might be right. Virginia Tech hospitality and tourism professor Mahmood Khan said hotels have been eying separate housekeeping charges for years.

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“The situation took a serious turn during the pandemic mainly because of the lack of human resources,” he said. “The hotel industry is still suffering because employees who were laid off or furloughed never returned. So they have limited housekeeping staff.” 

Meena Gupta just stayed at a hotel that charged an extra $100 for housekeeping. No one disclosed the fees before she made her reservation.

“For the money, the housekeepers made my bed, cleared my dining room table, and vacuumed the floors,” said Gupta, the chief operating officer for a moving website. “I don’t think these charges are worth it, considering the main reason the hotels exist is to offer a clean environment for their clients.”

How about more resort fees?

Don’t look now, but resort fees are poised to make a comeback. The number of hotels charging these fees is down 17%  from 2018 because of the pandemic. ResortFeeChecker.com reports that roughly 2% of hotels in the U.S. – 1,779 properties – still charge a mandatory resort fee, covering amenities like pool towels, exercise equipment and “free” in-room phones. 

But as business returns to normal, resort fees are returning.

In 2018, the average resort fee was $22.68 per night. Today, the number has grown to $25.57, a 13% increase, according to Randy Greencorn, publisher of ResortFeeChecker.com, who estimates resort fees are rising by 2% per month this year. That’s despite an agreement late last year between the Pennsylvania Attorney General and Marriott, which many observers thought would help to reduce the number of fees across the industry.

“If travel demand continues to remain strong in the second half of 2022, we will likely see resort fee rates continue to rise,” Greencorn said. “As long as demand remains strong, the number of hotels charging resort fees will continue to grow and likely exceed pre-pandemic levels.”

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Customer service expert Shep Hyken has been tracking the return of resort fees. Like many other frequent travelers, he’s exhausted from having to explain why the surcharges are wrong, at least from a customer service point of view.

“It’s simple,” he said. “Just tell the customer how much the room will cost before they book a reservation. A room rate of $200 should be $200. Not $200 plus $40 mentioned in the fine print below the published price for add-ons like resort fees or cleaning fees.”

Why force guests to calculate their final room price? Tell them how much they’ll pay before they book their accommodations.

Maybe they’ll just raise room rates

Then again, maybe hotels will just raise their rates. Average daily room rates have soared in 2022. By mid-year, the average rate was $157 – up 17% from 2019, according to STR.

But maybe that’s the right move. After all, extras like resort fees and cleaning fees make the rooms look cheaper. But raising the room rate means they want to be more transparent. Maybe they want to pay your staff a living wage or their costs have risen because of inflation. Their rooms are more expensive and they need to pass those costs on to their guests.

If hotels want more of your money, shouldn’t they just ask for it instead of going behind your back and stealing it?

What to do if you find an unwanted fee on your hotel bill

Check for disclosure: Did the property disclose the fee while you were booking your hotel room? If not, then you stand an excellent chance of getting it removed by the hotel. The property should always notify you in advance of any mandatory surcharges like cleaning fees or resort fees. You can complain to the hotel’s parent company or dispute your credit card bill if it doesn’t.

Ask for clarification: Many fees are vague. For example, resort fees are now sometimes called “facilities” fees and hotels don’t even bother to tell you what they cover. If a hotel representative can’t tell you what you’re paying for, you may be able to get the fee deleted from your folio.

Take it up the chain: If a representative doesn’t remove the fee, ask for a manager. If a manager can’t help, then contact the hotel chain or parent company in writing. Keep a careful paper trail with your hotel bill, and disclosure of the fee – and always be polite. The hotel’s practices may make you angry, but if you stay calm, you’ll stand a better chance of removing the unwanted extra charge.

Source : USAToday