When “Resort Fees” Make Their Way To City Hotels

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

It’s not just airlines which love nickel-and-diming and charging hidden fees. Hotels have been doing the same for years, with “resort fees.” This is a practice whereby many resorts charge a daily fee for use of their facilities, like the pool, towels, etc.

I guess it’s the hotel equivalent of airlines imposing fuel surcharges. When I pay for an airline ticket, shouldn’t the cost of fuel be factored in? Similarly, if I pay to stay at a resort, am I not paying for use of the facilities? That’s why people stay at resorts.

Historically these fees have mostly been limited to resorts, and haven’t spread to city hotels… well, for the most part.

In late 2012 I wrote about how Le Parker Meridien in New York City added a mandatory “facilities charge.” At the time the fee was $10, and included the following:

  • Wired or Wireless High Speed Internet Access for multi-devices in guestrooms, the lobby, restaurants and the bar.
  • Unlimited use of gravity fitness Center.
  • Unlimited use of the penthouse pool.
  • Unlimited toll free and local calls from your in room phone.

Even if you’ve never stayed at Le Parker Meridien (now the Parker New York Hotel) you may be familiar with the property, as they were fudging their occupancy numbers to extract more than a million dollars in additional reimbursement from SPG. So they’re perhaps not the most SPG-compliant property out there, and have since left the portfolio.

Anyway, I stayed at the Parker New York a couple of nights ago because it was the most convenient hotel for where I needed to be. I love Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs, which is a quirky and cute property.

Parker Palm Springs junior suite

Unfortunately its New York sister property was underwhelming, to say the least, with extremely drab decor.

Le Parker Meridien New York guest room

Perhaps the most surprising part to me was that they increased their “facilities charge” from $10 to $15.

The worst part of the increase is that Starwood now includes Wi-Fi for all guests booking through a Starwood channel, so that can’t really be thought of as a benefit of the facilities charge for most guests.

So for $15 per night you get access to the gym, pool, and local calls. In fairness, having a pool in a New York City hotel is pretty rare, but I’m guessing most people aren’t going to New York to swim, and a vast majority of guests don’t use it (I certainly had no interest in using it).

Ironically I actually found the gym the least useful of any New York City hotel I’ve stayed at. I tried to go to the gym yesterday morning at 2:30AM (thanks, jetlag!) only to find out it doesn’t operate 24/7. Which is the first time in years I’ve seen that at a US city hotel in a long time.

That was only the second most offensive aspect of this hotel, however. The most offensive was the fact that the keys are double the length of normal ones. So they don’t fit in a wallet, and are a good 6″+ long. Who wants to unnecessarily shove something 6″+ in their pocket? There’s a difference between quirkiness and impracticality.


Bottom line

I find “resort fees” to be ridiculous enough to begin with, but the concept of a “facilities charge” in a city hotel sort of blows my mind. Then again, I guess it’s no less ridiculous than airlines having added “fuel surcharges” for years, which in the meantime have turned into “carrier imposed surcharges” given the price of oil. What exactly do those cover, dear airlines?!

What do you think of the concept of a “facilities surcharge” at a city hotel? You have a problem with it, or just accept it as a reality at some hotels?

  1. I think it’s absurd – resort fees are like nickel and diming customers to think that their rooms are “cheaper” when in fact, nope, you’re paying more for the convenience of a pool and wifi… when it should be free in the first place as a perk of a hotel.

    It should not be mandatory but rather, optional. No wonder more people are looking to airbnb now. Cheaper prices, no frills, not much problems.

  2. Well said Lucky. Finally someone calls out that dump. Stayed there 3x, each time due to the insistence of a superior I was traveling with, never had a good experience. Fortunately we stopped traveling together and never again.

    They pretend that “Gravity” gym in the basement or whatever is a privilege because it’s a membership gym locals pay for. It’s drab and not open 24 hours, which blows coming in from overseas. Personal opinion, but I prefer fewer machines / weights and a more upscale feel on the road than the YMCA feel. Glad they’re getting called out.

  3. This probably will never happen but since Wi-Fi is supposed to be free through SPG, and I could careless about using the GYM or the Pool and we all have my cell phones so I want these facility charge to be optional. I will pay the $15 fee if I plan to use the gym or the pool but you can certainly card my room key to deny access to the gym or the pool entrance. I would like that option.

  4. The Park Central San Francisco (formerly Westin Market Street) recently added a “facilities fee” of $25/day! Included in this are (always free) high-demand items like luggage storage, use of the gym, and local calls (who doesn’t have a cell phone?). Wifi is also included, but as Ben mentions, this fee is waived when bookined through the site anyway. This facilities charge applies even to SPG elites who get all of these things for free anyway, and I think it’s an insult to seasoned travelers.

  5. They are ridiculous and funny thing is I had no problem pointing them out when I went to Maui and stayed at the sheraton. I pointed that the main benefit which was the Internet was provided free anyways due to status and changes. That the other things they included (yoga class?) where not of my liking or interest. They had no problem waving them. You just gotta asked nicely. For the property you are mentioning Lucky you can point out that it is SPG policy to provide free access to the gym of the hotel. This is actual policy. Therefore the benefits that fee provides do not apply to you. Therefore it should be waived.

  6. +1 on the Park Central SF. Absolutely ridiculous.

    I am not a fan of the PM NYC, but I like the pool (and the view from it), and the gym is better than a standard hotel gym. The Park Central’s fee, besides being $25, has zero value to me as an SPG Plat and a member of Equinox.

  7. You weren’t missing much of a pool. It’s 40 feet long and can fit four lap swimmers at most. Unless you get there first thing, it’s often filled with children and “leisure” swimmers anyway. Mostly, I guess, you can practice turning, push-offs, and hypoxic swimming; 15 lengths makes a 200.

  8. Resort fees, envelopes to make tipping the staff easier….. It all adds up to a business model based upon dishonesty. The room rate should be the room rate. The only extras should be taxes and the things that most people don’t use – meeting rooms, special communications center, etc.

    And most of all, they should pay their staff a living wage and not rely on their customers to make sure their staff can afford a descent lifestyle.

    I wonder what the executives in charge of these hotels would think if they went to buy a new shirt, and found all sorts of extra charges – “Sir your shirt is $65, but there is also a changing room fee of $3, a mirror and lighting fee of $2 and, of course, you should tip the sales guy an extra 20%.” I bet they would not like it.

  9. I personally just refuse to stay at them, and then email the manager and the loyalty program and tell him why I didn’t stay there and where I did stay. I don’t know if matters, but I always get a response from the loyalty program and NEVER from the manager. I have less of an issue at a resort, but a city hotel needs to be called out.

  10. I’m boycotting any hotel that pulls this crap, and will tell management why. Booking a room, but having to pay a $25 fee just to use facilities is absurd.

    There is absolutely nothing special about Park Central SF or Le Parker to cause a consumer to pay this fee when they can get a better and cheaper experience at Airbnb/Homeaway.

    If they want to focus only on business travelers who expense their rooms that’s fine, but it’s idiotic, short term thinking that will hurt them in the long run. But by then perhaps the hotel management will be long gone.

  11. I hate paying resort fees at resorts, but what irks me even more is paying outrageous resort fees (ie. ~$35/day) and having to pay mandatory valet parking fees in addition to that for $40/day (i’m talking to you St. Regis Monarch Beach). ugh. Adding even more insult to injury, they add on tax to those fees, so now you’re paying an extra $85/day in addition to your room costs.

  12. Used to be my favorite SPG property when it was category 5. They have the secret Burger Joint! Can’t justify the price anymore.

  13. @ MS – Airbnb, Homeaway, etc. are not suitable replacements for hotels for most travelers. There’s a reason why rates are low compared to hotels, such as getting a modern one bedroom apartment plus garage in San Francisco, as I did, for less per night than a dreary hotel room with inflated parking fees–no one on site to help you. I suppose that’s no big deal to most people, that is until the place runs out of hot water which was what happened in that otherwise nice apartment.

  14. Kimpton does this at a bunch of their DC properties. On one hand, I hate it. On the other, since they’re basically the only ones to do it, it’s very easy to figure out which property you’re getting on Hotwire.

  15. 5* hotels are mostly a money grab anyway. How about the $5 per sock laundry fees? That’s been going on for years. I avoid them like the plague. I often find smaller, lower end hotels more efficient…frequently with self-serve laundry facilities.

  16. If eveyone just did not stay at these hotels they would drop these stupid fees in no time. Problem is they find prople that don’t care and pay the fee so they keep charging it. I can assure you that they will never see the color of my money.

  17. I assume these fees are added as a way to game the online travel sites. Folks sort low to high so if you’re rate is $25 lower with at $25 resort fee you end up higher on the list. However, one would think the travel sites would adjust and rank based on actual cost.

  18. It’s different from the airline’s a la carte pricing, because you can still take a flight without paying extra fees if you don’t check a bag and don’t need to reserve a particular type of seat. The big problem with resort fees is that they are mandatory for staying at the hotel, and are a really unfair way of hiding the daily room rate for the property.

  19. +1 on the The Park Central San Francisco. I recently changed a reservation from the hotel to avoid staying there.

  20. If everyone would loudly complain about this on TripAdvisor and punitively rate them, this practice would stop.

  21. Every person who feels this is bad business (disingenuous at best) should give the hotels in question a one star review in Tripadvisor. If these reviews lowered their average star ratings, they might rethink this dishonest practice.

  22. @ Jon – Protesting these fees on Tripadvisor is terrible idea. If someone actually felt that a hotel tacking on a resort fee warrants a 1-star review, so be it, but giving such a low review when a hotel stay might otherwise have been fine subverts the purpose of Tripadvisor. Resort fees are disclosed up front before booking and should be calculated as part of the daily rate when considering whether or not the rate is a good deal as it may seem. If the resulting rate is too high, just don’t book. There’s nothing sneaky about resort fees unless a hotel failed to disclose its fees up front.

  23. What Josh said!!!
    “Resort fees, envelopes to make tipping the staff easier….. It all adds up to a business model based upon dishonesty.”

    Absolutely. I avoid such hotels whenever I can. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, nearly 100% of the hotels in Hawaii and in Vegas participate in this scam, and it’s sometimes not possible to avoid Vegas (due to conferences), and IMHO not desirable to pass on Hawaii.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to downgrade an otherwise nice hotel to 1 star in an online rating, but I will not hesitate to dock the rating by at least 1-2 stars and make my displeasure extremely clear (both to the hotel management and online) for what I perceive to be an obnoxious, misleading, and customer-hostile practice.

  24. “Who wants to unnecessarily shove something 6″+ in their pocket?”

    Me neither, I insist on at least 8″.

  25. How city hotels can charge resort fees is completely beyond me. With actual resort properties, I sort of get it, but city hotels? I hate paying a 25-35 USD fee on top of my room rate – especially in Vegas, where this seems to be normal practice. I only end up paying these and not complaining because the total room rate including the fee usually works out to something okay-ish anyway.

  26. The gym at this hotel is the number 1 reason I stay here. Sorry it wasn’t open late, but it really is worth $15. It’s one of two hotel gyms (the other being the Hilton Chicago) where I haven’t felt like I have to compromise my workout.

  27. It’s a full service gym and open 5 am to 10 pm Mon-Fri and maybe 7 am to 8 pm weekends. Totally worth it considering ive paid $20 to go to outside gym when I arrive somewhere and discover the gym is really a converted suite with two treadmills and a punching bag.

  28. I’m not THAT old, but surely I’m not the only one who remembers when these really were optional? It used to be that hotels packaged a la cart items into a tempting group for a discounted price. So, you didn’t expect to use the ($5/day) gym, but you DID want to use Internet ($10), the parking ($12), and pool towels ($5). The $15 daily resort fee was worth it. Some had levels that included snorkeling equipment, yoga, soft drinks, etc.
    I think the price points were reasonable and most of the things included really were optional. Probably, most people chose to pay them. But, all of a sudden, they became mandatory and you couldn’t opt out. I don’t know when it happened, but I doubt we can get that genie back in the bottle.

  29. What a scasm. And so are the tips. I never leave them in a hotel, the same way I don’t tip my bank cashier or my supermarket cashier. If you work somewhere you should get an honest wage, if not get another job.

  30. @Mike,

    To me its worthless when I just landed on CX846 and want to workout when I arrive at the hotel. A closed gym is a wotthless gym to me. I dont live in the US. 95pct of the hotels I stay in are 24 hours. Not having that is a bummer for me. This was the biggest fail of a 4.5 star hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Fortunately my former colleague is out of the picture and we’ve moved Manhattan hotels.

  31. Crap like this is why I often stay at limited service hotels domestically. I just scored the Residence Inn on 48th in NYC for next week around ~$160/night, which includes:
    Internet: Free
    Gym: Free, open 24/7
    Hot Breakfast: Free
    Full kitchen.

    Yet if I pay double that to stay at a full service hotel, all of that becomes an extra charge? No way. Even though the opposing party is paying for it, I refuse to needlessly rack up $$ to get less. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to stay at a Motel 6 or Knights Inn, but this is far from that. If anything, because it’s a newer property, I find the rooms there to be nicer than some of the older full-service hotels nearby.

  32. Nothing is as outrageous as this $34.43/rm/night “Destination Fee” at NYC Barclay Intercontinental: “Daily Destination Fee of $34.43 allows our guests to enjoy $25 Food & Beverage Credit per day, $15 Laundry/Dry Cleaning Credit per day, Premium High-Speed Internet Service, Free Local & International Calls, VIP Passes for discounts at Bloomingdales and The Shops at Columbus Circle at Time Warner Center”
    Just try to find anything on the rm service menu for $34 when there is 22% tax + $6.50 delivery charge. And what laundry service is $15?

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *