An Introduction To Hotel Resort Fees (And Hotel “Destination” Fees)

Resort fees are the most controversial thing in the hotel world right now. Everybody hates them, and for once, everybody is right. These fees used to be only for actual resorts, so it was a little bit easier to swallow. But now things are getting out of hand with non-resort hotels getting in on this (but thankfully only in certain cities).

Resort fees are a mandatory daily fee that resort hotels charge in addition to the posted price for each room (not per person). They allege it is to cover the cost of things like the pool, the fitness center, the Wi-Fi, phone calls, etc., even though the base price includes all these things at the vast majority of hotels.

But now, even hotels that are clearly not resorts, for example, in downtown areas, have started to implement this practice. They call it a “destination fee,” or sometimes an “urban fee,” a “facility fee,” or an “amenity fee.” For simplicity, I’ll call them all resort fees in this article.

Thankfully, these are not too common. Many resorts in North America and Central America have the fees. But for non-resort hotels, it’s somewhat rare and mostly limited to large US cities, usually at hotels in prime downtown locations. And it is often higher-end hotels, but not always.

So, no need to panic either. I’ve been traveling a lot for the past 3 years since we launched Flytrippers—about a third of each year, so around 350 nights in total. In all that time, I’ve only paid a resort fee once. Granted, I have been purposely boycotting these, and I really don’t like resorts…

But it’s not like it’s an unavoidable or widespread issue, so this must be put into perspective. It’s just better to know about them so you can make sure you avoid them, too. This is just one of the many tips and articles we’ll share about hotels as we help you become a pro traveler and travel more for less.

Then, next week, we’ll share where resort fees are the most common, how to avoid resort fees and how to see if a hotel charges a resort fee, with examples—sometimes, it’s hard to know.

 

What Is A Resort Fee?

Basically, you search for a hotel, and it says $140 per night. But unfortunately, there is also a mandatory $30 per night “resort fee” that the first price doesn’t include.

In Vegas, where resort fees have been common for a long time, some hotels like the Excalibur have a room rate of $28, but the resort fee is $29. Yes, the resort fee is higher than the price you’ll see when you book and represents 103% of the room rate (this example is from Kill Resort Fees, an American website created to protest these fees).

It’s already irritating that hotel prices don’t include taxes in the base rate, as opposed to airfares, which are always inclusive of all mandatory taxes and fees. But resort fees take this to a whole new level because they are significant amounts.

The good news is that there is currently a strong backlash against resort fees. There is legislation under consideration to end the practice in the US, so this might get fixed someday.

In the meantime, if you do book a hotel with a resort fee, I encourage you to leave bad ratings and bad reviews to help others know about these fees. Or, even better: boycott them with our tips next week.

 

Why Resort Fees Are Bad

Before I tell you the 2 reasons why resort fees are very bad, I do want to specify that it’s not the same thing as baggage fees or any other airline fee, because those are positive.

Yes, I love baggage fees because they give you the choice of paying less if you want to. Same for all non-mandatory airline fees. Don’t want them? Don’t pay for them. Simple.

The airlines are going to increase their prices whether you like it or not, so if at least it’s an avoidable fee instead of an unavoidable fare increase, that’s a positive.

It also gives people with fewer means the option of traveling for less if they want to. Traveling light also reduces the environmental impact of flying.

 

Resort Fees Are Mandatory

So the first major problem with resort fees is that they’re mandatory. It’s really just a scam for some hotels to make more money, because you can’t decide to avoid the fees. It should be included in the base room price since it can’t be avoided anyway.

For those who don’t see the difference, I’ll repeat: any fee that is avoidable is not the same thing as a resort fee that you simply must pay. You don’t have a choice. It is mandatory.

I am a big fan of à-la-carte pricing, where those who want certain services can choose to pay for those services. That way, those who don’t want those specific services don’t have to pay for something they don’t want (and don’t end up subsidizing other people’s travels through the higher price charged to all).

But in the case of resort fees, everyone has to pay them whether or not they’ll use whatever benefits hotels claim are part of the fee.

 

Resort Fees Are Not Transparent

The second major issue with resort fees is that they’re not transparent at all. I have no problem with extras, as I said, and I love ultra low-cost carriers (ULCCs) and understand that optional services are not included in the price.

But when you search for hotels, you only see the base price, and the resort fee is not included in the price.

This would be fine if you could pay just that amount—so maybe this is just the same rant about the fees being mandatory and not a separate point—but since your final price ends up mandatorily being higher, it’s a scammy way for some hotels to seem cheaper than they really are. It’s deceptive.

The resort fee won’t show until the final step of the reservation in many cases as we’ll show you next week, making comparisons uselessly more complicated because, again, you can’t avoid the fee unlike with airlines.

And with airlines, even if you were to book without doing your research, you could still stay within your budget. If you booked a US$14 flight (like those that some Canadians can take advantage of by driving across the border where ULCC Frontier flies to), you could then change your habits and realize traveling light isn’t that hard… and not pay a single penny over US$14 for the flight.

With resort fees, there’s nothing you can do. It’s just a way for hotels to avoid showing the real price when you search.

The Wikipedia page about resort fees happens to suggest this as a related topic, and that’s pretty accurate:

Very relevant indeed (photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Why Hotels Charge Resort Fees

Well, the first reason is to make more money, quite simply.

I already mentioned the second reason, which is to appear cheaper than they really are and therefore rank higher in the search results. (Because savvy travelers will sort hotels by price once they’ve set their desired filters.)

The third reason is that since the resort fee is charged at the hotel, they don’t have to pay a commission to hotel booking websites on this part of the rate. That represents significant savings for hotels.

Finally, the fourth reason is that since the amount is not part of the room rate, they don’t have to charge the same taxes on that amount.

Okay, this one is actually not bad at all for us travelers, but overall there’s still a lot more negative than positive with resort fees.

Come back next week to learn how to avoid resort fees and how to see if a hotel charges a resort fee.

Or even better: subscribe to our free newsletter and get it in your inbox!

 

 

Summary

Knowing about resort fees will help you when booking accommodation. Make sure you’re not being scammed into paying a mandatory fee that doesn’t show in the original hotel search price: come back next week for our follow-up article on how to avoid resort fees and how to know if a hotel charges one.

 

Have you encountered any unexpected resort fees? What do you think about them? Let us know in the comments!

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 59/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I noticed these greasy resort fees when looking for a hotel in Honolulu.

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