Business travelers heading to New York may no longer be immune from a daily add-on to their hotel bill that used to be limited to leisure destinations like Hawaii and Las Vegas. And hotels in other big cities might not be far behind.
At the leisure destinations, the hotels call these contentious charges ”resort fees,” supposedly covering the hotels’ costs of providing things like pool towel service, fitness center use, phone calls, daily newspaper and so on – and the fees are mandatory whether the guest actually uses any of the covered services or not.
Probably the most notorious destination for charging exorbitant hotel ”resort fees” is Las Vegas, where big hotels routinely tack more than $30 a day onto guests’ final bills. And they are not included in the quoted room price during web searches.
Now, according to a report in the U.K. newspaper The Independent, resort fees are coming to many hotels in New York City under another name – the Urban Destination Charge.
The newspaper found that a number of hotels in Manhattan – especially those in the Times Square area – have started tacking a mandatory “destination fee” or “facility fee” onto guests’ bills, with the amount ranging from $15 to $25 a day. The fees are being charged by properties belonging to major chains like Marriott/Starwood and Hilton.
A Marriott spokesperson told the newspaper the fees were imposed at some of its properties as a four-month test program, and estimated that about 40 New York hotels are now charging them.
Like the resort fees, the new charges are supposedly covering hotel services like Internet, fitness rooms, newspaper and so on, whether or not the guest uses them. They may also include a one-time food and beverage credit (even though the charge is imposed for every day of the guest’s stay), or discount vouchers to use for city tours, etc.
Hotel resort fees have been drawing scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission for years, but so far the agency hasn’t done anything to rein them in except to warn hotels back in 2012 that they ought to be more transparent in disclosing such fees to customers.
In 2015, the FTC rejected a request from a consumers’ group that hotels should be required to incorporate resort fees into their regular room rates. Earlier this year, the FTC’s Bureau of Economics issued a report on hotel resort fees that concluded they can harm consumers by making their room searches and price comparisons more difficult. That report was issued in the final days of the Obama Administration during early January. With the changeover to Republican rule in Washington, it is considered unlikely that the FTC would come out with any new regulations restricting hotels’ freedom to assess resort and/or destination fees.
So don’t be surprised if more hotels in other urban centers take note of the New York experience and decide to tack on some new fees of their own.
Readers: Have you encountered any unexpected mandatory hotel fees recently? Where, how much, and what were they for?