Make us your home page
Instagram

Dreaded hotel fees making a comeback

If those ever-climbing airline fees have you steamed, get ready for another summer travel bummer: Hotels are playing the same game.

Watch out for new charges, like the mini bar restocking fee. (Don't they make enough on the $4 chocolate bars?) And don't expect to get any slack on hotel policies, like trying to check out a day early without a penalty.

Hidden hotel fees have plagued travelers for years, long before airlines jumped on the bandwagon. The industry eased up last year during a historic decline in business and leisure travel. But with signs that customers are starting to return, hotels have ratcheted up the charges again.

Revenue from hotel fees and surcharges will jump 12 percent to $1.7 billion this year from 2009, said Bjorn Hanson, a clinical professor at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

Hotels and airlines like the fees because they generate piles of cash at little extra cost. Another big plus: Fees don't show up in the room rate customers first see as they hunt for bargains on travel websites.

Of course, that bait-and-switch is what turns off consumers.

The fees are "extremely offensive," said Atef Mankarios, CEO of Trevi Luxury Hospitality Group in Dallas, which manages and advises high-end hotels. "There's got to be a price. You have to respect the customer and say (up front) what it costs."

A former CEO of St. Regis and Rosewood Hotels, he calls the add-on fees "my soapbox." Mankarios is still stunned by a Florida hotel — he won't say which one — that slapped a $35 resort fee on his bill for a stay that lasted from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Forget about using the pool or golf course; there wasn't even a bellhop around to help with his bags.

Resort fees rank among the most hated add-on charges. Hotels say the fee covers amenities like parking, the fitness and business centers, spa access, tennis courts and in-room WiFi.

Not interested in using those services? Tough luck. They'll charge you anyway, typically from $15 to $20 a day, Hanson said. Even if hotels disclose the charge in advance, you probably won't find out until the website or reservations agent gives you a final price.

At least with an airline, customers get charged the same amount for a checked bag or reserved seat on any of its flights. Not at hotels. "You can stay one night on the East Side of (Manhattan), then stay at the same brand (hotel) on the West Side the next night and get charged different fees," Hanson said.

He advises travelers to be on the lookout for these new or rising charges:

Baggage hold fee ($1 per bag or $5 flat fee): Most hotels used to keep your luggage locked after you checked out for free. Now many make you pay, and you're still expected to tip the attendant.

Mini bar stocking ($2.95 to $5.95): Hotels tend to lose money on minibars, Hanson said, because they pay someone to check the inventory daily. The fee offsets their costs — and jacks up your bill.

Housekeeping surcharge ($12.50): Self-explanatory. I'd guess that like the baggage fee, this charge will cut into the tips of workers who really need them.

In-room Internet ($19.99): This usually pops up at high-end hotels, not budget properties. Why? Upscale places figure business travelers on expense accounts don't care.

Too often, travelers don't see the fine print about fees on the statement they sign at check-in. You can refuse to pay any surprise charges. But front desk clerks are more likely now to stand their ground, Hanson said.

Which might make the business that calls itself "the hospitality industry" as popular as, well, airlines.

Steve Huettel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3384.

Dreaded hotel fees making a comeback 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 8:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients

    Business

    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]