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Hotel fees hit a new level of absurdity with "utility surcharge" at one property in Las Vegas

May 21, 2021
4 min read
Hotel fees hit a new level of absurdity with "utility surcharge" at one property in Las Vegas
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A la carte pricing has been a growing trend in the travel industry, with more and more providers cutting back parts of their "typical" services to offer lower prices (see: Economy, Basic). But with hotels, this model has led to an even greater proliferation of resort fees — mandatory added costs to a stay that frequently offer little-to-no actual, real-world value for guests.

And today, we're learning about what may be the most absurd fee yet.

As first reported by Vegas Unfiltered on Twitter, one property in Las Vegas is now tacking on a surcharge of $3.95 per night as a "utility fee" — and if you're booking directly with the property, it's not even disclosed during the booking process.

The offending hotel here is the adults-only Artisan Hotel Boutique, situated just off the Las Vegas Strip. When you visit the property's website and search for a room, you'll see a number of dates with seemingly-low prices.

(Screen shot courtesy of Artisan Hotel)

However, those $45-per-night rates nearly double once you factor in the various additional costs.

For starters, there's a $19.95 nightly resort fee — that's actually $22.62 when you include the 13.38% Las Vegas hotel tax. But amazingly enough, there's zero mention of what this actually gets you. It can't be the valet parking, since that's currently suspended, nor can it be for Wi-Fi, since the hotel's website specifically says that's "ALWAYS FREE" (per the below screen shot).

(Screen shot courtesy of Artisan Hotel)

Then there's the utility fee — that's notably not even disclosed on the hotel's own website during the booking process. Here's the price breakdown for a one-night stay on June 21, 2021:

Note the "Taxes" section. As noted above, Las Vegas imposes a 13.38% hotel tax — but on a $45 room rate, that should only be $6.02. However, you're paying an extra $4.48 above and beyond that amount.

So where is this coming from?

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Fortunately, third-party travel sites offer some insight — like these side-by-side screen shots from Expedia.com (left) and Hotels.com (right).

Screen shots courtesy of Expedia.com and Hotels.com)

And when you add a 13.38% tax to the $3.95 utility fee, you get ... $4.48.

It's hard to decide which is worse: the lack of disclosure or the fact that the hotel is charging a fee for the use of utilities during the stay. Can I turn off the air conditioning to avoid this fee?

What's next? A "fresh air" fee for breathing oxygen in the building? A "concrete" fee for driving or walking on the pavement?

Related: First to go were airline cancellation fees, next should be hotel resort fees

Sure, paying an additional $4.50 per night isn't going to break the bank for most travelers, but this represents a worrying development for a trend that's entirely consumer-unfriendly. Any added fee — and there are some "creative" (read: awful) fees that some hotels have implemented — is effectively a way for hotels to obscure the true price of a stay. The initial search results show one rate, but the actual price you pay winds up being significantly higher.

In fact, we've seen a handful of lawsuits over these fees — going after providers like MGM Resorts, Hilton and Marriott.

This approach stands in contrast to airline tickets, where the results page must show the all-in price — including government-imposed taxes as well as those pesky fuel surcharges. There's no surprise at checkout; the initial price you see is the one you'll pay.

Las Vegas is notorious for these fees, but this "utility fee" represents an absurd new low for the industry. Here's hoping that this will be walked back, but given the trends of the last few years, I'm not holding my breath.

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023