Hotel resort fees are out of control and need to end now
I’ve had it with bogus resort fees.
And destination fees. And amenity fees. And whatever other made-up term a hotel chooses to squeeze a few extra bucks from me.
It’s just too much — especially at hotels that have nothing resort-like to offer. And I’m sorry, but a few weights and treadmills don’t count as resort amenities.
Legitimate resort fees — if there is such a thing — started at big hotels with pools, chairs, entertainment and other expensive add-ons. The fee was a way for hotels to pay for all these extra amenities without having to add to the base prices consumers see when they search for hotels.
In other words, hotels would appear cheaper in internet searches, making them appear more competitive in price while offering a more robust experience once guests arrive.
Related: The 10 most outrageous resort fees
But then hotels in cities started tacking on extra costs, too, calling them “destination fees.” Of course, isn’t every place a destination for somebody?
I got dinged with such a fee this week during a quick, one-night stay at the InterContinental Boston.
So what exactly did that $34.94 fee get me?
- Two bottles of water.
- Free local calls.
- Premium internet (something IHG One Rewards elite members already get for free).
- No fee for a rollaway bed.
- Use of the gym.
- A 50% discount on the pet fee (yes, paying one mandatory fee gets you a discount on the other fee, which is still $100).
- A 10% discount on laundry.
- Discounted tour tickets (most hotels earn a commission for selling these to you).
- Free photocopies, up to 100 pages.
The front desk clerk had these outlined in a handwritten note taped to the desk. When asked, the clerk told me almost nobody uses any of these things.
The only included “amenities” I personally used were bottled water and the internet. Of course, the standard internet is free to all IHG One Rewards members; premium comes free with my elite status. As for that bottled water, I could have purchased it — or used the tap water — for much less than $34.
If I wasn’t at the hotel for 12 hours, I may have used the gym. I did the night before at the much-nicer Conrad Washington D.C., where it was free with your room price, as you would expect it to be.
Related: The zero-cost vacation: 100-plus all-inclusive resorts you can book with points
My one-night stay at the InterContinental Boston only set me back 34,000 IHG points, valued by TPG at $170. This means that the $34.94 resort fee added another 20% to my hotel stay.
This InterContinental is far from the only hotel in the area to charge such fees. Just a few blocks away, the Hyatt Regency Boston has a similar fee. However, they at least give $10 toward dinner at the on-site restaurant, a free cup of Boston clam chowder and a “special Boston keepsake magnet upon departure.”
No wonder politicians love to fight resort fees. Or, at least, say they do.
A few state attorneys general have gone after the fees and won some better disclosures.
President Biden publicly started attacking the fees this fall. But by this month, he shifted the rhetoric away from what his administration can do to what he wants Congress to do. Now, he's bundling them in with other "junk fees" – namely, airline seating fees and Ticketmaster ticketing fees.
While the public rallying cry against these fees catches fire with some regularity, substantial changes are unlikely.
Hotels rake in millions of dollars from these fees each year. One lawsuit showed that Marriott was taking in more than $100 million a year in such fees — and that's just from the relatively small number of hotels that Marriott's corporate team operates. There are plenty of other Marriott hotels managed by independent owners excluded from this total.
Though it sometimes feels like this is everywhere, the American Hotel and Lodging Association notes that only about 6% of properties charge such a fee. Still, that doesn't mean more and more hotels won't try to add those fees in the future, as that is precisely what we have experienced in recent years.
If you've also had enough, the two ways to stop resort fees are through government regulation or by avoiding hotels that charge these fees (though the latter will require enough consumers to do the same to make an impact).
Hotel owners will remind us that these fees are disclosed (for those who pause and read the fine print).
I get it; hotels are businesses and need to be profitable. Despite a record number of leisure travelers, many are still digging out of a pandemic-induced fiscal hole. (Guests have returned, but those expensive corporate gatherings with big catering bills are slower to reappear.)
But really, how many people want to make photocopies at the front desk? As for the phone, Wi-Fi and gym, those should all be part of what we expect, like a mattress, sheets, pillows and towels.
There are a few ways to avoid resort fees as a guest, even if nothing changes on a large scale, but I'll emphasize the "few" part of that sentence.
I give Hilton and Hyatt credit for waiving these fees on award stays. Marriott and IHG aren’t as kind. To give them extra credit where it is due, Hyatt also waives the fees for all stays for its top-tier Globalist members, which is part of the overall value of that status.
Related: Make sure you’re getting the most out of your Marriott resort fees
Even in Las Vegas, where some resort fees now top $50 a night, those who have Hyatt Globalist status can match to an elite tier with MGM Rewards and avoid the fees.
Related: My new ‘trick’ for avoiding pesky resort and destination fees on last-minute stays
However, not everybody uses points or has elite status. So I urge you, dear travelers, to let your voices be heard. Speak up against these bogus fees with your voice, wallet and feet.
To really drive the point home, maybe even print out a copy of this story, head to the front desk and ask them to make 100 photocopies of it the next time you stay at the InterContinental Boston. You might as well; you've already paid for it.
- Best hotel credit cards
- When is the best time to book a hotel? Experts weigh in — and debunk a few myths
- The best credit cards to reach elite status
- A comparison of luxury hotel programs from credit card issuers
- Which credit cards offer the most lucrative rewards for hotel stays?
- The best hotel rewards programs in the world