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

May 21, 2021

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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.

Hotel rates at the Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas for June and July of 2021
(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).

Details on the free services that are included at the Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas
(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:

Price breakdown at the Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas

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?

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

Utility fee at the Artisan Hotel Las Vegas
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 photo by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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