Come on, hotels: Did you really think guests would let resort fees slip by unnoticed?
Ahh, it’s summertime leisure travel season. That means rooftop pool bars with $22 Piña Coladas, hotel patio dining and … resort fees.
This year as holiday travel season kicks off, I’m fielding more and more questions from family and friends about resort fees.
Those of you in the hotel industry know how those questions go: There are those people in your life who reach out every summer wanting some sort of hotel deal, or insider hotel-related intel.
I can’t get anyone a deal, but I’m always happy to pass along little reminders, such as telling people with kids to book hotels with free breakfast. Or advising people going on driving vacations to look out for parking or valet fees. Or reminding my friends that I have no idea what that Taco Bell hotel is all about, so quit asking (though my colleague Sean McCracken opines on it here).
This year, friends and family are asking me every week it seems about what resort fees are, how they can avoid them, and why on earth they are being charged at a hotel in New York City.
It’s all coming to a head at an interesting time. Just this week, we read about the District of Columbia suing Marriott International over resort fees. Last week, I hope you read the informative opinion piece by asset manager Tony Haddad here on Hotel News Now about trends in destination fees (yes, just another name for resort fees).
Of course, resort fees are nothing new—just ask the esteemed Bjorn Hanson. But they’re coming to an inflection point, more so than ever before, because of a lot of contributing factors.
There’s this lawsuit, yes, which is a high-visibility one, but it’s one of many active suits all over the country. There’s Booking.com’s new program that will levy a commission on resort fees (one of the biggest advantages of resort fees for hotel owners has been that they’re not commissioned by OTAs, so this could signal a sea change, despite Expedia’s response that it won’t charge commission on them).
But the most important factor is the growing awareness by the traveling public. Today’s hotel guests—and people in general—are more transparency-minded than ever before. We want to know what we’re being charged, when, how and at what frequency in all aspects of our lives.
So knowing that, hotels, did you really think your guests wouldn’t notice, understand or ask about resort fees?
I get it—they’re great for you. Despite the Booking.com thing, you don’t pay commission to online travel agencies on them. You typically don’t apply them toward loyalty accruals, which is another plus for you. And in these times of really high occupancies, they’re great profit-generators.
(Haddad’s opinion piece goes into a lot more detail about why these fees are beneficial, and how brands approach assigning them value—it’s a really interesting read.)
What’s the solution? Of course, government crackdowns may force a solution for the hotel industry, but barring that, I think it’s pretty easy: Let your guests know what they get for these fees, and for goodness’ sake, give them real stuff!
Taking time to acknowledge a resort fee and explaining what it includes just opens the door for people to say, “I’m not going to use those things; do I still have to pay?” and that’s a problem.
Maybe the solution lies in customizing resort fee packages, just like the hotel industry has evolved to customize loyalty rewards.
It might be more palatable for a guest to hear something like, “For your mandatory $27 resort fee, you can choose the wellness package, which includes free gym access and a free kale smoothie; or you can choose the entertainment package, which includes free premium Wi-Fi for streaming and a 10% bar coupon.”
Again, it comes down to transparency and giving guests what you say you’re giving them. We’ve come to accept taxes as sureties in life we have no control over. But resort fees aren’t taxes (at least in theory they’re not, though many hotels treat them that way). Treat them like (cough, cough mandatory) amenity charges, assign real value to them (not just complimentary access to USAToday.com, thank you very much but that ship sailed five years ago) and consider customization.
It just might change the bad rap these fees have.
All this being said, I wonder what the resort fee will include at that Taco Bell hotel?
What else do I need to know about the pros and cons of resort fees? Doing anything interesting with them at your hotel? Comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.
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