The Resort Fee

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


A persistent thorn in the side of travelers is the “resort fee,” a bit of stealth inflation whereby a hotel tacks on a daily $5 to $30 charge above the advertised cost of the room. Some places calculate it on gym or pool charges (whether or not the guest uses the facilities), forced gratuities, towel-cleaning expenses, or other items most people assume are included in the advertised rate. Other hotels don’t explain the basis for the charge at all.

But when is a resort fee not a resort fee? All too often, it turns out. Even the most upbeat marketing pitchman would recoil at the thought of having to characterize some of these places as “resorts.”

For example, the Anaheim Best Inn, a nondescript no-frills hotel behind a Denny’s, charges a $10 “resort fee” for what no one in their right mind would mistake for a resort. (See the satellite photo below.)

The Chesapeake Resort-Islamorada Florida Keys, despite bad guest reviews on Trip Advisor, has got the nerve to levy an $18 resort fee. The Hotel Chelsea in Miami's South Beach, which doesn’t even have a pool, adds its own daily resort fee. Maybe it's the "spa style bathrobes" listed among amenities that warrants the fee?

Hidden charges like this are especially vexing when they occur after consumers reserve the room through Priceline, specifying the maximum they were willing to pay. To make things even more confusing, Priceline has a “resort” category, but even when you take pains to avoid that category you can still be assessed the resort fee. At the very least, Priceline should give its customers a chance to opt-out if a greedy hotel tries to circumvent the consolidator’s pricing system.

One way to fight back against surprise fees like this (if the hotel refuses to waive them) is to dispute the amount of the bogus fee through your credit card. An item that credit card companies like to keep secret is that they will routinely waive small charges in dispute, because it can cost them more to investigate a small charge than to just pay it themselves.

Discussion boards can help you identify which hotels charge resort fees so you avoid surprise overcharges if you’re using Priceline. Visit FlyerTalk and Bidding for Travel.

Also, complaining never hurts. After Marriott received enough complaints, the resort fee was shown the door.

Do you have a juicy Fee of the Week? We'd like to hear about it. Click here to e-mail us at the Hotline.




Quick Menu

Facebook FTwitter T