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Hotels jump into fees racket

Las Vegas hotels are leaders in tacked-on fees. At the Aria Resort & Casino, for example, guests are charged a $25 a day “personal use fee” if they put their own soda or bottled water in the minibar. A guest in need of a mini refrigerator can have one delivered to their room — for $35 a night.
AP

Las Vegas hotels are leaders in tacked-on fees. At the Aria Resort & Casino, for example, guests are charged a $25 a day “personal use fee” if they put their own soda or bottled water in the minibar. A guest in need of a mini refrigerator can have one delivered to their room — for $35 a night. AP

By Scott Mayerowitz

Associated Press

Forget bad weather, traffic jams and kids asking, "Are we there yet?" The real headache for many travelers is a quickly-growing list of hotel surcharges, even for items they never use.

Guaranteeing two queen beds or one king bed will cost you, as will checking in early or checking out late. Don't need the in-room safe? You're likely still paying. And the overpriced can of soda may be the least of your issues with the hotel minibar.

Vacationers are finding it harder to anticipate the true cost of their stay, especially because many of these charges vary from hotel to hotel, even within the same chain.

This year, hotels will take in a record $2.25 billion in revenue from such add-ons, nearly double that of a decade ago, according to a new study released Monday by Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University's hospitality school.

Hanson says guests need to be "extra-attentive" to the fine print. Fewer and fewer services come for free.

Need to check out by noon but don't have a flight until after dinner? Hotels once stored luggage as a courtesy. Now, a growing number charge $1 or $2 per bag.

Shipping something to the hotel in advance of your trip? There could be a fee for that too. The Hyatt Regency San Antonio, which subcontracts its business center to FedEx Office, charges $10 to $25 to receive a package, depending on weight.

Some budget hotels charge $1.50 a night for in-room safes.

Convincing a front desk employee to waive a fee at check-out is getting harder. Fees are more established, better disclosed and hotel employees are now trained to politely say no. "It's the most difficult it's ever been to get a charge removed," Hanson says.

Even the in-room minibar — a decades-old splurge — isn't safe from the new wave of add-ons. At the Liberty Hotel in Boston a cold can of Coke from the minibar costs $5. That's just the base price. The fine print on the menu reveals an 18-percent "administrative fee" to restock the bar.

Even moving an item in the minibar can generate a fee. The Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, like many other hotels, bills items to guests' rooms if sensors in the minibar note they have been removed for more than 60 seconds — enough time, hotels say, to read the nutritional information and make a decision. The Aria goes one step further. It also charges a $25 a day "personal use fee" if a guest puts their own soda or bottled water in the minibar. A guest in need of a mini refrigerator can have one delivered to their room — for an extra $35 a night.

Hotels are also revisiting resort fees, upping the price, especially at the high-end.

For $650 a night, guests at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort — set on a former coconut plantation in Puerto Rico — enjoy rooms with 300-thread-count sheets and walk-in-closets. But that's not the full price. There's a $60 nightly resort charge, which provides for a welcome drink upon check-in, Internet access, the use of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs, bicycles and a daily poolside ritual iced tea service that includes fruit skewers. Guests pay whether they use the services or not.

Other hotels are adding mandatory tips. The Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda, which was recently charging $469 a night, charges a resort fee and mandatory gratuities for each person in a room. So two adults and two kids sharing a room would incur $48.28 a night in resort fees and $40.80 tips — adding 19 percent to the nightly rate.

And the fees aren't limited to resorts anymore. The Serrano hotel in San Francisco adds on a $20 per night "Urban Fee" that includes Internet, local phone calls, newspapers, morning coffee and use of bicycles.

Perhaps nowhere are hotels pushing fees further than in Las Vegas. Forget resort fees. Those are taken for granted there. Resorts like The Bellagio are learning from airlines and selling enhancements. Want to skip the notoriously long Las Vegas check-in lines? That will be $30 extra. Want to check-in early? That's another $30. Check-out late? Also $30.

And if you want two queen beds or one king bed, it will cost extra to guarantee your preference. For an extra — you guessed it — $30, the Bellagio will lock in three room preferences such as bed type, requests to be near or far away from the elevators, rooms on a high or low floor or the option to have quieter non-connecting rooms.

Then there was the fee Hank Phillippi Ryan, a mystery writer, faced while in town to sign copies of her new book Truth Be Told at a convention. Before heading to the airport, she went to the lobby of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino to print her boarding pass. There a kiosk offered the service — for $7.95.

"I think I actually yelped," she recalls. "I had never seen that before."



Forget bad weather, traffic jams and kids asking, "Are we there yet?" The real headache for many travelers is a quickly-growing list of hotel surcharges, even for items they never use.

Guaranteeing two queen beds or one king bed will cost you, as will checking in early or checking out late. Don't need the in-room safe? You're likely still paying. And the overpriced can of soda may be the least of your issues with the hotel minibar.

Vacationers are finding it harder to anticipate the true cost of their stay, especially because many of these charges vary from hotel to hotel, even within the same chain.

This year, hotels will take in a record $2.25 billion in revenue from such add-ons, nearly double that of a decade ago, according to a study released Monday by Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University's hospitality school.

Hanson says guests need to be "extra-attentive" to the fine print. Fewer and fewer services come for free.

Need to check out by noon but don't have a flight until after dinner? Hotels once stored luggage as a courtesy. Now, a growing number charge $1 or $2 per bag.

Shipping something to the hotel in advance of your trip? There could be a fee for that too. The Hyatt Regency San Antonio, which subcontracts its business center to FedEx Office, charges $10 to $25 to receive a package, depending on weight.

Some budget hotels charge $1.50 a night for in-room safes.

Convincing a front desk employee to waive a fee at check-out is getting harder. Fees are more established, better disclosed and hotel employees are now trained to politely say no. "It's the most difficult it's ever been to get a charge removed," Hanson says.

Even the in-room minibar — a decades-old splurge — isn't safe from the new wave of add-ons. At the Liberty Hotel in Boston a cold can of Coke from the minibar costs $5. That's just the base price. The fine print on the menu reveals an 18-percent "administrative fee" to restock the bar.

Even moving an item in the minibar can generate a fee. The Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, like many other hotels, bills items to guests' rooms if sensors in the minibar note they have been removed for more than 60 seconds — enough time, hotels say, to read the nutritional information and make a decision. The Aria goes one step further. It also charges a $25 a day "personal use fee" if a guest puts their own soda or bottled water in the minibar. A guest in need of a mini refrigerator can have one delivered to their room — for an extra $35 a night.

Hotels are also revisiting resort fees, upping the price, especially at the high-end.

For $650 a night, guests at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort — set on a former coconut plantation in Puerto Rico — enjoy rooms with 300-thread-count sheets and walk-in-closets. But that's not the full price. There's a $60 nightly resort charge, which provides for a welcome drink upon check-in, Internet access, the use of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs, bicycles and a daily poolside ritual iced tea service that includes fruit skewers. Guests pay whether they use the services or not.

Other hotels are adding mandatory tips. The Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda, which was recently charging $469 a night, charges a resort fee and mandatory gratuities for each person in a room. So two adults and two kids sharing a room would incur $48.28 a night in resort fees and $40.80 tips — adding 19 percent to the nightly rate.

And the fees aren't limited to resorts anymore. The Serrano hotel in San Francisco adds on a $20 per night "Urban Fee" that includes Internet, local phone calls, newspapers, morning coffee and use of bicycles.

Perhaps nowhere are hotels pushing fees further than in Las Vegas. Forget resort fees. Those are taken for granted there. Resorts like The Bellagio are learning from airlines and selling enhancements. Want to skip the notoriously long Las Vegas check-in lines? That will be $30 extra. Want to check-in early? That's another $30. Check-out late? Also $30.

And if you want two queen beds or one king bed, it will cost extra to guarantee your preference. For an extra — you guessed it — $30, the Bellagio will lock in three room preferences such as bed type, requests to be near or far away from the elevators, rooms on a high or low floor or the option to have quieter non-connecting rooms.

Then there was the fee Hank Phillippi Ryan, a mystery writer, faced while in town to sign copies of her new book Truth Be Told at a convention. Before heading to the airport, she went to the lobby of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino to print her boarding pass. There a kiosk offered the service — for $7.95.

"I think I actually yelped," she recalls. "I had never seen that before."

Hotels jump into fees racket 08/25/14 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2014 6:07pm]

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