Dear Hotels: This Is NOT How You Disclose “Facility Fees”

Filed Under: Hotels, Hyatt

One of the most annoying trends in the hotel industry is resort fees, destination fees, facility fees… whatever you’d like to call them.

Essentially these are added mandatory charges that hotels tack on to the room rate.

Hotels charge these fees for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re a way for hotels to try and get more revenue without increasing the “transparent” room rate
  • It works out better for the hotel than an increase in the room rate, since historically they don’t have to pay travel agents a commission on these fees
  • In some areas it also allows hotels to skirt the typical occupancy tax that otherwise applies on the room rate

Hotels are largely delusional about these fees, and the Hotel Association of New York has stated that guest “appreciate the value offered” by these fees.

These fees are a nuisance, though hotels are private businesses and can choose to do what they want (and we can vote with our wallets). I have two issues, though:

  • A lot of hotels don’t clearly disclose these fees, and I find that to be deceiving
  • I think there should be government regulations requiring hotels to promote all-in pricing, rather than the “base” pricing before add-ons and fees; there have been similar requirements for airfare, and that seems like a good practice so consumers can make informed decisions

As mentioned above, the absolute worst thing a hotel can do is not at all be transparent about these fees. This is much more common than you’d think, and that’s a problem.

For example, Joie de Vivre recently joined World of Hyatt, and these hotels are now largely exclusively bookable through Hyatt’s website, rather than through the former Joie de Vivre website (that website redirects to Hyatt’s website when it comes time to book).

Both of their New York City properties — Hotel 50 Bowery and Park South Hotel — charge “facility fees.” But they simply don’t disclose it.

Go through the booking process and you won’t see the facility fees mentioned anywhere.

Then when you get to the final page you’ll see the “Summary Of Charges,” and only when you maximize that will you see a breakdown of all the taxes and fees. This doesn’t even list that there’s a facility fee, but rather there’s a section for “Other Fees.”

That still doesn’t make it clear that this is a facility fee. Nowhere is a facility fee mentioned on Hyatt’s website. However, when you go back to Joie de Vivre’s website (which many people booking through Hyatt might not even do), you’ll find mention of it if you search.

Bottom line

While these fees are terrible across the board, at a minimum hotels need to do a better job of disclosing them. It’s completely unacceptable to deceive consumers in this way — it should be made clear during the booking process that these fees are being charged, and what they include.

In the case of these hotels there’s zero disclosure on Hyatt’s website, and the only context in which they’re even mentioned is if you look at a price breakdown under the “Other Fees” section.

Comments
  1. I find Hyatt is the worst at disclosing these fees. Part of the reason I gave up on Hyatt (even though I really wanted to make it work, it was just too hard with my travel locations to make Hyatt work easily).

    I hope this changes and regulations get put in place

  2. Travel in the USA is such awful value — these fees are a perfect example. Incredible that anybody comes here.

  3. It’s why I’ve largely abandoned hotels in the US and try to use Airbnb as much as possible. Sick and tired of getting hoodwinked.

  4. Hotels seem to live and die by TripAdvisor ratings. If we all must made a point to deduct one star from every hotel that charges a hidden fee and state the reason plainly in the review, I’m sure that would start to get some attention.

  5. I intend to always initiate a chargeback for these types of fees. Most of them are borderline deceptive anyway, and whether it’s ultimately decided in my favor or not, I will make sure this practice costs them time and money. Obviously the first choice is not staying at one of these properties in the first place.

  6. I find the US approach to be completely maddening. Go into a shop, see the price on the shelf, add up the cost of your basket as you go, and then, when you get to the till – it turns out those weren’t the prices you’ll be charged, because assorted taxes will get added. The final bill is always a surprise.

    What is it with the US? Most consumers don’t care about all the different elements of a shopping bill which make up the total price unless we have a choice about paying them. Just tell us what the final price will be.

  7. @David how do you plan on initiating a chargeback for a portion of your hotel stay? Any time I’ve disputed a charge, it’s the entire charge or nothing.

  8. Just booked 8 nights at the Edition Miami Beach and man, that 40 USD a night resort fee is a killer. I’ll wear it because it looks a great hotel, but I struggle to see what I get for it…

    I’m from the U.K. and swear it’s just a lot easier to compare pricing over this way to the US. It’s almost like a ‘hold your breath’ when you click ‘next’ on a booking because you know a huge whack of taxes and random fees will basically add the cost of an extra night onto your final bill.

  9. I travel to NYC regularly. All those are state and local taxes every hotel charges. It’s definitely annoying they do not disclose them in the regular price, however I believe there is little the hotel can do about them.

  10. @The nice Paul +1
    @Trent +1

    I agree with Ben about all charges needing to be transparent, but in the US, I’d consider myself lucky to see charges at the end of the booking process just before payment, let alone having them declared from the early stages of the booking process. How can we expect upfront declaration of fees and charges when you only find out the final price of anything you buy at the till? There’s already a very long precedent there in the US.

  11. @ David
    I like the spirit of your plan, but for your own sake don’t put in too many chargebacks, it could come back to bite you with the card company. It would probably be better to call the hotel and confidently threaten a chargeback if they don’t deduct the deceptive fee. Then if they are being difficult, you can still do the chargeback if provoked.

  12. Wouldn’t it be nice if Priceline, Hotwire, Trivago etc. refused to offer prices for hotels that charge these fees? Or, at least, include an opt-out button?

  13. And they are lumping these charges into a section called ‘taxes and fees’ which gives the impression that the facility fee is some sort of government imposed charge.

    As bad as airlines lumping in their surcharges and using the generic term ‘taxes’ giving the impression to many that it’s nothing to do with the airline!

    And bloggers like Lucky shouldn’t be afraid of calling hotels and airlines out on that and using the full term such as ‘taxes, airport fees and airline surcharge / resort fee’. A couple of extra words but it’s more accurate.

  14. Gotta love begging for the govt to disclose a resort fee. How about all those BS taxes.

    Book somewhere else or don’t go at all. Government should be small and limited, not solving your mundane problems.

    PS – Love ad block. Not one dime of revenue to you or this site.

  15. Good that you are calling hotels out on this. They really show contempt for their customers. Did you contact Hyatt and what is their lame response?

  16. Hyatt at least waives the fees for all award nights and for Globalists on all stays. Better than I can say of the other companies

  17. While we’re at it, what do we think of the “service fee” that hotels in Asia charge? I actually prefer that hotels add a service fee and then I don’t have to worry about tipping. But, e.g., in Japan, the service fee (often up to 15%) plus government taxes (another 15%), and that’s almost a third of the published base rate.

  18. Being in the auction industry we have a history with something that could be compared: “Buyers Premium.” It took years but in time consumers came to accept that it was a part of the system…something that I imagine will eventually happen with hotel guests as well.

    In our industry it began as a way to lower and negotiate the seller commission and receive an amount that would not be subject to a commission from the seller. It began at 10% years ago that the user would pay the auction house at check out over and above the “hammer price.” In time, as consumers became used to it and it was ingrained in their thinking many of the larger scale houses gradually raised them even more. Many (Sotheby’s, Christies, etc) are now at 27% that the buyer pays as a fee. We remain at 15% to balance the fees a bit more between seller and buyer but many have taken the ball and run hard to the extreme and I would imagine soon we will see with consolidation of many firms the buyers premium hit 30%.

    With that said it is always transparent (in relation to Lucky’s point). No one is without the information as to the premium and can adjust their bidding accordingly. In the end It has little in the way of affect on price when an item is rare and heavily contested for. It does though have impact on the selling price when a more typical or common piece is offered. This may end up translating to the hotel industry as well…boutique, unique, and luxury properties will get away with it. The Hilton at O’Hare will not. I imagine this will become a norm over time and the “split” will increase even more.

  19. For example, I was looking at the RC Kyoto recently. Nightly rate ¥85,000. Taxes and fees are over ¥21,000, including a 15% service fee.

  20. Report these (U.S.) hotels to the Better Business Bureau at every opportunity, if for no other reason than to stack up hundreds or thousands of online complaints regarding their deceptive billing. The hotels will be kept busy responding…if they care about their reputation in this regard.

  21. @The nice Paul
    The problem is that the area of the establishment wants a cut too, just like the mafia.
    It’s easier to have one price everywhere than to change prices from store to store. Easy for both bookkeeping and customers to compare prices.

    Another messed up system in addition to tipping and resort fees.

  22. Always thought the difference between base price and a fee is that there must be a way to avoid paying a fee.
    Anyone ever tried telling the person at check in “I do not want free premium wifi and 10%off your overpriced restaurant?

  23. @URALoser. Wow you really showed him with your ad blocking!
    How appropriate your name says it all.

  24. The lack of transparency is starting to become a real issue in the travel world. Look at any airline ticket look at any hotel bill it’s just a charge and tax after charge and tax

  25. When you check in you can ask to not pay the “resort fee” or whatever they’re calling it. Tell them you don’t use any of the things covered by the fee and don’t want to pay it. Often (not always, and it always takes some argument) they will delete the charge.

  26. @ Ben — I love these fees as long as I am exempt (Hyatt Globalist and IC Royal Ambassador). If the hotel charges a $40 opaque fee, they have to lower their transparent price by $40. Works for me.

  27. Isn’t that just a US thing other than an across-the-board thing? Well I refuse to travel within the US when it’s unnecessary anyways. Not really happy with whatever value I’m getting.

  28. When the goods and service fee (GST) was introduced in Australia, it was legislated that all taxes and fees were included in the quoted price.

  29. I gave a hotel a low TripAdvisor review because of the way they handled fees. It was a $1000+ per night resort. I had prepaid, so when checking out, they said “you just owe the $30 per day resort fee.” Not disclosed anywhere on the website or when I prepaid. It irked me so much that such an expensive resort couldn’t just build in that extra $30 into the nightly rate. Ultimate ridiculousness.

  30. What is really disgusting is when you stay at a complete, run-down, no maintenance dump like the “Sawgrass Grand Hotel and Suites Sports Complex” in western Ft. Lauderdale, and get charged a “Resort Fee”. They should be sued for false advertising with their grandiose name. It should be called the “Last Resort Fee”.

  31. Hotels suck in the US. Otw to Mount Hood in Oregon. Airbnb because hotels suck especially fees.

  32. If you don’t like or agree with a merchant’s pricing policy, don’t patronize them. If it’s too late, use TripAdvisor and other sites to alert other potential buyers. KW and other noted how they take stars away for shady pricing practices. If enough people do this something will change. But let’s not ask “mommy” to set the rules in the hopes of having everyone play “nice”. Eye roll!

  33. And don’t forget the tipping. Gotta tip the doorman, bellboy, assorted valets, room service, housekeeping, someone who smiled at you in the lobby but you’re not sure they’re an employee – better tip them, just to be safe. Add another $200 to your bill.

  34. I just cancelled a Westin hotel stay in NYC Times Square because of a 180.00 facility fee. It’s complete BS and I will stop booking hotels with these fees. Instead booked an element and ended up saving a total of $1200 for the two rooms I was booking. Yes, I realize they are different category hotels but the facility fee is what prompted me to even look at another option. Knock it off Marriott!

  35. “Hotels charge these fees for a variety of reasons”

    Wrong, there is one and one reason only: they want our money.

    When I started traveling to the USA many years back, I was always amazed that in the prices you see posted, for instance, in a store not even the tax is included. You think something costs $100 – but in fact it costs $110 (or whatever the tax is). Nowhere does this show up except on the final bill.

    Now, if the government can hide their fees, it’s only normal that private businesses do the same. After all they need to lure you into making business with them.

    That doesn’t make it right, but the same should be true for “normal” taxes.

  36. Recently stayed at the Grand Hyatt Washington DC on points, so I wasn’t charged their brand new destination fee. But I gave them a 1-Star review on TripAdvisor anyway because they will likely embolden other DC hotels to start doing the same thing unless guests shun them.

  37. I book about 50-60 hotel nights a year via Hotels.com from Sweden. Here all taxes AND resort/facility fees are included in the total price shown when you search at Hotels.com. Does anyone know if this is due to some EU/Swedish regulation, since they don’t disclose it in the US?

  38. Last year I stayed in a “four star” hotel in Crete and at check-in had to pay a local tax based on the hotel’s star rating. The hotel was actually three star at best so I an very suspicious that there is collusion with the state run tourist authority to award artificially high star ratings as this benefits both the hotel with a higher rating and the tourist authority with higher taxes.

  39. Lucky says: One of the most annoying trends in the hotel industry is resort fees, destination fees, facility fees… whatever you’d like to call them.

    Real simple: On behalf of your readers, advise all your hotel contacts to change the fee category to “deceptive Fees”

  40. “Now, if the government can hide their fees, it’s only normal that private businesses do the same.“

    There is a difference.
    Government taxes by and large are the same almost everywhere locally, on the vast majority of products.
    So where I live, it’s always 7.5% or close to it
    Yes, sometimes it’s 7.515% or 7.7275% but it’s gonna be in that range
    (Clothing and food is exempted)
    So I have a general idea of final price, even when I change States

    These hotel charges are different
    Sometimes it’s 0
    Sometimes it’s 50% or more of the listed price
    And no way to know until you get to final screen

    To all who are virulently anti-government: this is inefficient

    Regulation here makes the market more transparent, hence more efficient
    Which increases and improves the “free market”

    For instance, I now almost never stay in hotels for precisely this reason
    I missed a connection in NY
    Got a hotel
    Facility fee was $40 per person per night.
    $80 on a base hotel rate of $250+/- is just not right.

    Instead of justifying this misleading business practice with “but the government does it” we should just have all-inclusive pricing with easy to see menu of components for those interested in what the taxes and fees are.

  41. This does raise for me the significant variation on what consumers and regulators accept in certain counties. I have always found it bizarre that hotels and indeed most industries in the US quote pricing excluding applicable taxes and charges for a person to purchase that good or service. If none of it is optional then it should be quoted as a fully inclusive price. Then there is fair competition and consumers make a fully informed fair choice. thankfully European regulations have maintained such standards for a while.

  42. I think you’ll find TripAdvisor to be curated in the hotel’s favor. That has been my personal experience and why I only use it to see pictures.

  43. @TheNicePaul: I think one of the reasons for the US approach is to make the population more aware of the amount of taxes we pay to the government. Same reason salary amounts here are always quoted before taxes, unlike in some other countries. This may (or may not) promote the low tax (and low service) government compared to most other developed countries. But unlike hotel fees, tax rates don’t vary from business to business. They are also fairly well known, at least to local residents in a given state.

  44. I’m torn. I don’t like all these extra fees (taxes you can’t do anything about – I do think those should be included in the overall price as part of the room rate since those are “fixed” rates). However, if gov’t regulation did the same for hotels as the airlines then we’d start witnessing hotels introduce “basic economy” type hotel rooms. They already do this up to a point, but it would be even more so. Honestly, I don’t really use wi-fi very much when traveling and charging me daily for it is egregious. My internet service at home is < $50/month. The comp'd bottle of water isn't worth the $25 daily fee as are the "complementary bikes for rent". I feel this fee should be charged for your entire stay whether it's one night or 5 nights. Or if you insist on charging me daily then add a daily food and beverage credit for $20, I'll use that and actually spend more on property – but this is a scheme to get more $$$ out of the guests up front whether or not we use those "amenities".

  45. These “resort or facility fees” should at a minimum be made “optional”. Maybe you don’t need the access to 500 digital newspapers or even the hotel’s open and unsecured Wifi? For $ 40.00 i can buy a beach towel or two…

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