As Long As Guests Pay, Resort Fees Stay

For properties that can sell their value to guests, resort fees remain here to stay. As this article from Hotel News Now suggests, as these fees climb, transparency is the key to success.

Published by Laura Koss-Feder/Hotel News Now
Published date: September 2022

Travelers may complain about resort fees when they see the final bill, but they’re still paying them. To retain guest loyalty, hoteliers know they must provide demonstrated value for fees now more than ever.

Not only have resort fees remained in place, but some have even gone up — some by more than 10% at certain properties, David Sangree, president of Hotel & Leisure Advisors, said.

While hotel owners may worry about the potential negative impact of charging resort fees, that has not deterred the practice or slowed the rate of increase, he said.

In the broader travel industry, “hidden fees” have drawn some governmental scrutiny as the White House looks to crack down on a lack of transparency about added on fees for air fares through airlines and travel booking sites. CNN reported the Department of Transportation is proposing a rule requiring them to “disclose up front — the first time an airfare is displayed — any fees charged to sit with your child, for changing or canceling your flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage.”

There have been no signs as of yet that hotels will face the same scrutiny in relation to resort fees.

Rentyl Resorts Managing Principal Nick Falcone said added fees also have not diminished the hospitality industry in any noticeable way.

“What I’ve seen is that the resort fees haven’t changed in our business from prior to the pandemic. We’ve seen that there have been no comments from guests that are abnormal, or change in demand based on the charging of resort fees,” he said.

Rentyl partners with resorts around the world to offer bookings and vacation packages. Rentyl Resorts’ portfolio includes the Margaritaville Resort Orlando and Atlantis Paradise Island in Bahamas.

Falcone added that as long as resorts are justifying fees by providing value, they are usually accepted by the traveling public.

“The issue with these fees are when hotels are charging them and providing zero value, which occurs often,” he said.

At Rentyl’s Orlando, Florida, properties, for example, resort fees cover access to amenities such as water parks, pools, sports courts, complimentary transportation to the theme parks, free Internet and parking — services that guests recognize as high-value.

For that reason, Falcone said, select-service properties that may have tried to adopt resort fees at one time or another are doing so less and less.

Fernando Garcia-Chacon, managing director at CBRE Hotels, said “smart hoteliers realize that they need to provide true value if they are going to charge a resort fee. Obviously to a certain degree, value is in the eye of the beholder, but nevertheless, owners and management companies realize they just can’t simply add a fee without offering something in return.”

He cited drink vouchers, transportation and discounts on spa treatments as examples of high-value services that can be covered in a resort fee without guest pushback.

The great majority of resort fees are mandatory, though in a few instances, if guests complain and present a valid argument, the hotel manager may eliminate the charge, Garcia-Chacon said.

“Resort fees are here to stay, just as you will continue to pay for checking bags or carry-ons when you book a flight. What will most likely change is a greater focus on transparency, with hotels ensuring that guests making reservations are made aware of these fees, taxes and others charges,” he said.

Resort fees also factor in to a property transaction, noted Rob Smith, president of Aimbridge’s full-service hotels division.

“The recent scrutiny has been two-fold,” he said. “One, brands request that resort fees represent a multiplier of the value of what is being bundled to ensure they create and communicate value with the combination of offerings and services; and two, that the fees are transparent during the buy transaction,” Smith said.

Aimbridge is ensuring that its properties meet the brand requirements and the fees are transparent. The company is also “very actively” training staff on the value proposition, so its guests understand the situation at hand and the fees don’t become an area of guest dissatisfaction, he said.