How much do you charge for resort fees? Marriott International's settlement with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office that requires the company to include resort fees in the advertised room rate has consumer advocates, hotel industry observers and guests pondering the question.
Marriott was believed to be in violation of consumer protection laws after an investigation into the practice of "drip pricing", fees above the stated rate that are only gradually disclosed as consumers go through the booking process or even revealed only when checking in. Marriott agreed to prominently disclose the total price of a hotel stay, including room rate and all other mandatory fees, on the first page of its booking website as part of the total room rate in a settlement with the attorney general.
"Hotels shouldn't be able to slap hidden fees on top of your bill at the last minute, and thanks to this settlement we're putting the hotel industry on notice to put an end to this deceptive practice," he said. We expect more hotel chains to follow Marriott's lead and fix this practice.
Critics of resort fees are celebrating the development after nearly a decade of challenging the practice as deceptive and illegal, but they hope the settlement will finally shift their favor.
The president of Travelers United has been fighting against resort fees. MGM Resorts International was sued by the organization in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for charging mandatory fees when Covid-19 protocols left many of the services included in the fee unavailable.
The person is Charlie Leocha.
When we heard about the settlement, our jaws dropped. It's what we've been looking for. We'll see how Marriott follows up. We will be watching to see if they can slip through the agreement. Marriott will be a leader in the industry, and we hope other will follow their lead.
The Travelers United case against MGM is one of the ongoing litigations by the attorney general of Nebraska. The Pennsylvania settlement won't end Marriott's legal headaches, as a hearing is still on the docket in March in another attorney general's lawsuit.
Sally French, a travel expert with NerdWallet, said that resort fees have been an irritant for travelers for a long time, and she has personally booked rooms in Las Vegas that were advertised at $100 and ended up costing $200.
Sally French is from France.
This has been a long time coming, and it's really challenging for the consumer. Most travel websites have complaints about resort fees. My parents went to Hawaii and were surprised at the check-in fee, and they were angry.
"Resort fee" is a misconception, and over the years hotels in a range of destinations have enacted mandatory fees that he believes are similarly deceptive and unethical."
Motel 6 is charging extra fees, but they call it a cleaning fee. You go to New York and the hotels charge you a fee. These are all mandatory fees. If the hotel controls it, you have to pay for it every night. The room rate should include it.
French said Marriott's move could help build trust with new and existing customers, and she expects the change to cascade to other brands.
She said that the hotel companies were always looking at what the other was doing. The others changed their cancellation policy after Covid-19 struck. Marriott is a leader in the hotel industry and their competitors will make pricing more transparent if they are more transparent with resort fees.
The Marriott settlement could be a sign that the cost-benefit analysis is shifting, as damage to lawsuits and guest ire with surprise charges is starting to outweigh the profit incentives. Service fees at country clubs, stadiums and other venues have been challenged in court for more than a decade, but have yet to disappear.