Itineraries: Beware: That In-Room Coffee Just Might Cost You

Taking their lead from the airlines, hotels and resorts are raising add-on fees to record levels.

“It’s almost a challenge to come up with a new category of charges,” he said. “The easier ones to think of have mostly been introduced.”

But hotels are rising to the creative challenge.

MGM Resorts International drew complaints from customers and even inspired a Change.org petition this year after introducing what it termed “modest” parking fees of up to $10 a night at its Las Vegas properties — a departure for hotels and casinos along the Strip.

In a blog post, the chief executive of MGM Resorts International, Jim Murren, argued that paid parking was a necessary evil in an evolving market. But patrons and visitors complained on social media and expressed concern that MGM’s competitors would see an opportunity and follow suit.

More hotels, not only in Las Vegas, are adding parking fees, even for unattended self-parking. And hotels all over the country are adding fees for perks that used to be free or based on availability, like late checkout or early check-in, or a request for a room on a high floor or one with a king-size bed. Some are adding bellhop charges for help with bags or for holding luggage — fees separate from the tips travelers already give the bell staff.

Mr. Hanson said those billions of dollars in add-ons would probably be even greater if not for the fact that much of the new lodging coming onto the market today is limited-service hotels, like Holiday Inn Express, where fewer services mean fewer opportunities to tack on fees.

Also helping offset the fee frenzy somewhat is the trend among hotels to dangle free Wi-Fi as a carrot to induce guests to join their loyalty programs. But free broadband goes only so far.

“I think consumers in a lot of instances feel like they’re being nickel-and-dimed,” said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president for operations at the hotel research and data company STR. “It just gets on your nerves.”

Resort fees, in particular, have long been an irritant for visitors to places like Las Vegas and Florida. The fees typically cover amenities like pool towels, beach chairs, fitness-center access and a daily newspaper — and guests are required to pay whether or not they actually use any of those things.

Now resort fees are turning up in urban locations as well, and their costs are rising, said Randy Greencorn, co-founder of ResortFeeChecker.com.

“We are seeing an increase in the actual amounts being charged,” he said, with some hotels charging as much as $50 on top of the regular rate — an amount that can double the price of some off-peak rooms in Las Vegas, he said. “I think the problem is that hotels will keep increasing their fees until consumers push back.”

A big part of the annoyance is the surprise factor. The Federal Trade Commission said in 2012 that hotels must disclose mandatory resort fees to guests. But travelers often overlook the disclosures at the time of booking, and by the time they reach the front desk, they are usually not in a position to go elsewhere.

Traveler advocacy groups are pressing the F.T.C. to revisit the issue.

“When only the room rate is provided, consumers are given a false price,” said Charles Leocha, chairman and a founder of Travelers United. “When the hotel has mandatory fees, if they’re mandatory, they must be included in the room rate.”

Two Democrats in Congress, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Respresentative Suzan DelBene of Washington, have also been trying to legislate a solution. Senator McCaskill introduced legislation that would make hoteliers roll the resort fee into the room rate, rather than break it out as a separate charge. Representative DelBene sent a letter to the F.T.C. in January urging the agency to take action, and plans to introduce a companion bill to Senator McCaskill’s, according to her office.

This would mean fewer unexpected expenses for travelers like Ed MacConnell.

Mr. MacConnell, who lives in Bucks County, Pa., stayed last spring at the Meliá Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration, in Florida, while closing a real estate deal. He recalls being surprised to find that on top of the room rate of about $200, he was charged a $15 nightly resort fee for in-room coffee, water and pool towels. It grated all the more, he said, because the housekeeping staff forgot to provide the water and coffee some days.

“I’m sure it was probably in the fine print somewhere,” he said. “It’s not even the matter of paying it. It’s paying it to not get it.”

Rick Garlick, who leads the global travel and hospitality practice at J. D. Power and Associates, said Mr. MacConnell’s response was a common one.

Although rates and fees at hotels have been rising for a number of years, Mr. Garlick said, hotels have been adding perks like upgraded breakfast offerings, free Wi-Fi and renovated bathrooms and lobbies. “You’re paying more but you’re getting more,” he said.

The problem now, though, is that prices are still rising, and hotels are running out of ways give guests more for their money. “These things have now pretty much become part of the standard bundles,” Mr. Garlick said.

“Basically, all the things that represented added value for the guests, we’re going to see that start to flatten out,” he said. “The expectation has been that all these nice extra perks would come along with the room.”

In Ms. Schooling’s case, finding out that those perks did not include a much-needed jolt of caffeine prompted her to swear off the Empire Hotel for future travels.

“If you’re going to have the gall to charge for it, I’m going to go out of my way to never go back,” she said. “Coffee, for those who drink it in the morning, is a very personal thing.”

Continue reading the main story

Original Link...

Tags: None

Read On:

Recent News