If you’re one of the millions of people who book hotels online, you may decide where to stay based on the lowest price. But buyer beware, that advertised price might not be all you’re expected to pay. We’re talking about fees that claim to be associated with a so-called resort, even if you’re not staying at one.
Lauren Wolfe booked a $400 room online for a Key West hotel but had no idea that wasn’t all she was expected to pay. “I was shocked that after paying $400 online, I needed to give them an extra $20 in the name of a resort fee,” Lauren says.
A resort fee, otherwise known as a destination or amenity fee, can add anywhere from a few bucks a day, to hundreds of dollars to your overall hotel bill. But what exactly is a resort fee? “Resort fees are a tool that has been created within the hotel industry for hotels to bundle a series of services or amenities,” says Mark VanStekelenburg, a hotel industry expert.
While you might expect to pay fees for access to things like day spas and fitness centers at upscale hotels, resortfeechecker.com shows some average-priced hotels are charging resort fees for a variety of amenities from newspapers to housekeeping. VanStekelenburg says, “As long as the hotel discloses that these particular items are being added together and a resort fee is being charged, a hotel then is effectively disclosing.”
We reached out to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, which explained “80 percent of consumers say they’re willing to pay resort fees if the amenities are worth it.” They also stated that hotels comply with FTC guidelines “to clearly disclose all fees before a room is booked.”
Wolfe says she didn’t find it so easy. “The hotel that I was originally charged a resort fee at has a mention of their $75 pet fee on their front page, but they have no mention of their resort fee on the front page,” she says. She was so upset by her own experience, she started a consumer website called KillResortFees.com to share her tips on how to fight resort fees. Wolfe tells us, “You can always ask politely at the hotel and many hotel managers might waive it. “If they don’t? Be sure to book the room using a credit card and open up a dispute with the credit card company.”
But consumers aren’t the only ones to fight back against unfair resort fee practices. 47 attorneys general served subpoenas to one major hotel group in relation to an investigation into perceived abuses of resort fees, and the officials we spoke to tell us they’re looking into more hotel groups as well.