Mandatory Hotel Gala Dinners: Grrrrrrr!

Filed Under: Hotels

Given that I travel constantly, I generally prefer visiting places in the off season, or at least shoulder season. For example, I was in Amsterdam last July, and found it borderline unpleasant due to how many tourists it was overrun with.


Similarly, I’ve made a habit of traveling to slightly less popular destinations to celebrate the New Year. New York City, London, Sydney, etc. — great as they are — don’t really tickle my fancy on December 31.

A couple of years ago I rang in the New Year in Edinburgh, this past year I was in Copenhagen. And while I would certainly prefer a warmer climate, I had a great time in both.


I’m hoping to plan holiday travel further in advance in the future, and my general goal is to visit lower key resort destinations, as I think that would be a relaxing way to ring in the New Year.


If you’ve ever looked at popular resorts over New Year’s, though, you may have noticed how common “mandatory gala dinners” are. That means when you’re staying at certain resorts over New Year’s, you’re required to “buy in” to whatever festivities they have planned.

Take the Park Hyatt Maldives, for example, which is a property I really love. If you make a booking over New Year’s, you’ll notice the top of the page says:

Please note, our mandatory gala dinners on Christmas and New Year’s Day 2015.


So what are the mandatory festivities on New Year’s Eve 2015?

Ring in the New Year at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa with an international gastronomic journey featuring European classics, Asian delicacies, local favorites and other irresistible offerings in multiple dining locations.

Start your journey with a champagne reception at Hadahaa beach while enjoying the views of the setting sun, before being escorted to your table in the Dhoni, an architectural masterpiece and the heart of the island. Be dazzled by interactive culinary displays including a live salad station, Arabian mezze, antipasti, international cheeses and a seafood counter with home-cured reef fish and Japanese sushi. Your journey will continue in the poolside Dining Room where our chefs will carve barbecued beef rib, baked tuna in brioche and prepare international kebabs and seafood à la minute on our island barbecue. Signature dishes from the Maldives and China will also be on offer to round off a truly adventurous dining experience. Ease your way to our beachfront bar where a lavish display of desserts from Black Forest cake to sour cherry clafoutis, and a live counter of freshly-filled eclairs and profiteroles, to name but a few, will complete your journey. The celebration continues into the night on the Hadahaa beach with a wide selection of beverages available while you immerse yourself in the tunes of our live DJ.

Entertainment will also be provided by live musicians and traditional Maldivian music playing throughout the evening.

Okay, great, so you get a champagne reception, a buffet, “house wine and beer,” and a “live DJ.” How much will that set you back?

Price: USD 570 per person including champagne reception, international buffet, house wine and beer

Yup, $570 per person. Now, admittedly the Park Hyatt Maldives isn’t cheap to begin with, so you expect to pay a bit more than elsewhere. But $570 for food, a champagne reception, and house wine and beer? Unless the champagne is Krug and the buffet consists of bottomless caviar, I just don’t see how the math on that adds up, even when factoring in how expensive the Maldives is.

And perhaps adding insult to injury here is that this only includes a champagne reception and then beer and wine for the rest of the night. Most people will probably be purchasing quite a few mixed drinks on top of that.


Which brings me to the main point of this post. And it’s not specific to the Park Hyatt Maldives (I just happened to notice this on their website), but rather all hotels with these mandatory charges:

  • To guests: is anyone not pissed off at these compulsory dinners? I can sort of almost get the point of them at totally secluded resorts (even if I think the Park Hyatt one is ridiculously priced even by Maldives standards), but these are just as common at less secluded resorts.
  • To hotels: I get that you want to maximize revenue during peak periods, but presumably the increased demand is already factored into the room cost over these periods, no? For example, the Park Hyatt Maldives is nearly $2,000 per night over New Years, which is almost double the normal rate. Do you really think all guests want to “buy in” to a concept like this, or is this something hotels do simply because they know they can get away with it?


And I suspect that’s what it comes down to — hotels do this because they know they can get away with it.

What do you make of resorts and “mandatory” New Year’s gala dinners? Do they actually add to the overall experience, or are they highway robbery?

  1. So… Don’t go to those resorts?

    Even all the nice hotels you seem to love have mandatoryparking fees, no free breakfast unless you have status, and until recently had charges for internet.

    This is exactly why low and mid range motels are far superior.

  2. Simple answer: refuse to go and refuse to pay for it. Let your CC know in advance you dispute the charge, and let the property know that you will dispute the charge.

    Sometimes “F*ck you” is an appropriate response.

  3. Or hotels know they will be swamped with points redeemers and thus come up with novel ways to compensate. Obviously not a fan, but it makes sense.

  4. What if i’m not catholic? What if i don’t believe in christ? What if i use a different calendar to the gregorian calendar?

    Very easy, just find somewhere else!

  5. Actually we were planning a trip to the PH Maldives over NYE and this is the exact reason we decided to push off our stay by a few days… If i’m going to spend $1000+ on food for the evening, it’s not going to be at a resort; we are spending NYE in Dubai instead and then going to the Maldives.

    Plus I figured I would have a better shot at upgrades not being there on the “truly” peak days of NYE proper.

  6. As annoying as this is, ridiculous NYE dinner prices are very common in restaurants around the world. If you want to go out to dinner, especially at hotel restaurants, you are almost always required to partake in a gala event at a ridiculous upcharge including a bunch of stuff you don’t want and almost never everything that you do. Simple supply and demand, way more people want to go out than there are restaurant seats, so restaurants jack up the prices accordingly.

    That said, the Park Hyatt Maldives is particularly egregious since its not like its guests can really go anywhere else or non-hotel guests are clamoring to get into just for NYE dinner. Frankly it would be less galling if they just further jacked up the room rate instead of pulling this nonsense.

  7. They should offer a stomach purging station with wet towels and next-day colonics on the beach for an even $1000.

  8. Yes, it’s annoying. I’m also thinking about where should I celebrate the New Year but I don’t have any idea so far. I’m thinking about Singapore but I don’t know how crowded it might be during that season. I couldn’t go to a cold place so my options are more limited than yours Ben.

  9. Voting with your feet seems easy enough. As long as it’s all disclosed in advance it’s not difficult to choose. I also refuse to pay “resort fees” and other mandatory costs that should really just be included in the rate. So I stay at a place that doesn’t charge them.

  10. I never go for these type of offers, #1 I don’t drink and #2 I am too picky of an eater and never eat enough at buffets to feel it’s worth it.

  11. I had the pleasure of spending new-years eve at the The Atlantis – The Palm, DXB.
    First of all they had a policy of minimum 5 nights stay for the festive season. We arrived 3 night prior to this period, and based on costs we spent the first 3 nights in Sheraton, AUH.
    The Atlantis – The Palm, also had mandatory new-years eve buffet, we ended up paying approx AED 3000,- pr. person, and our party was two adults and two kids, whom only did the ice-cream buffet, personally I had enough champagne and caviar (Iranian) to make worth the while, but the pricing is way-of.

  12. Lucky,

    Not to sound like a jerk, but instead of complaining about a super overly priced dinner on a holiday at a 5 star hotel in the middle of the Indian Ocean. How about you take the money you earn from this post and donate it to a food bank or some place that will provide a hot meal to those less fortunate on these days.

    I enjoy the trip reports etc., but your complaints about a $500 meal and other #firstworldproblems are getting a little old.

  13. I actually spent last NYE at the PHM and struggled with this very thing. Being vegetarian my wife and I usually don’t get good values out of buffets like that, so we had some back and forth emails with the head of catering about that. I turns out that we weren’t the only ones wanting to skip the buffet dinner, so they made it optional in the end. We had a normal meal in the main restaurant and then joined the party on the beach. Overall this night is one of my favorite NYE memories. The PHM is just such a special place.

  14. It’s amazing how many people seem to have problems with reading comprehension:

    “Which brings me to the main point of this post. And it’s not specific to the Park Hyatt Maldives (I just happened to notice this on their website), but rather ALL HOTELS with these mandatory charges:”

  15. How can you say Edinburgh is not an obvious choice for New Years – a “less obvious choice”?! It’s the New Year’s capital of the UK – far more so than London!!!

    It is rammed full and hotel costs are at their peak.

  16. Whining about things that are disclosed in advance? It’s not like they are sneaking in the charges on your credit card statement. Feeling entitled are we?

  17. Stayed in Nusa Dua, Bali a couple years ago. I found out about the mandatory $250 / pp Gala New Years Eve party and checked out on Dec. 31 changing to a smaller hotel. I had no intention of celebrating New Years in a ballroom full of strangers and paying much more than the quantity / quality of food that I could consume. I was surprised that all the other guests calmly accepted the fee – there was no checkout line at the desk when I was leaving.

  18. I have been seeing these for (atleast) last 25years when spending NYE in South Asia. I am not sure if it’s region specific but all the popular resorts do it. Think of it as a cover/ premium whatever and move-on. Nothing new here.

  19. If These mandatory dinners were not disclosed at booking I would be extremely disappointed and make it point that it shouldn’t be mandatory.

  20. After two years in a row (Thailand & Vietnam) of jacked up pricing, bad asian cover bands and mediocre food, I very purposefully planned to be in the air during my least favorite of all holidays. I will be flying in Etihad’s apartments from JFK to AUH, enjoying all that that cabin has to offer and no shakedown fee or questionable entertainment…save for the odd episode of “Two Broke Girls” or similar! 😉

  21. I’m really surprised by this post. To be sure you are young but complaining about the free market? This isn’t about price gouging in an emergency for food or water but a hotels that has a product they believe is worth X. If you think it is overpriced, don’t buy it.

    But why the indignation? Because it’s too rich for you? Someone out there might feel that a thousand bucks for dinner is well worth it. And somewhere there are people, probably millions of them, who think what you or I pay for a far more modestly priced dinner, hotel room, rent a car or Uber ride is obscene.

    The wonder of a free society is that we each get to choose where we spend our hard earned dough. The wonder of the free market is that suppliers need to correctly price what they sell if they want some of those bucks. For some reason you are miffed that this particular company isn’t pricing what they have for sale to your expectations. I think that sounds a bit self centered of you.

    The fact is they don’t want you as their customer. They want someone willing to pay about a thousand bucks a couple for a Christmas dinner. Either there are enough of them out there are there aren’t.

    That is nothing to be indignant about. As Adam Smith pointed out when he talked about the invisible hand the market will work that out all by itself.

  22. Yes, the hotel rate increase is enough but guess what….it is New Year’s Eve and people who can afford to pay $2,000 or more a night for a hotel are also willing to splurge the extra 1K for a celebration. But this isn’t rocket science: traveling anywhere between Dec 20 and January 4 is unwise if one is looking to save money or get “value.” To expect otherwise is like walking into Tiffany’s and being offended by the cost of a quality stone.

    Buy a bottle of Krug and caviar for $400 and live large at home and donate the other $10K for the trip to a charity to give those who cannot celebrate the new year a reason to celebrate!

  23. I’ve spent NYE at a two different hotels in Rio (I love Brazil over new years), and never had an issue with this, thankfully. Neither the Intercontinental or the Hotel Novo Mundo had any sort of mandatory gala.

  24. I have made a hotel booking using my Avios for Hyatt Dubai and i can assure you the site i booked from did not mention anything about mandatory gala dinner neither the receipt’s Ts and Cs had anything and in december i was asked to pay £500 including my 6year olds contribution for an adult party.

    My question to all those who think this is legal how can someone sell you something that dont exist. The gala dinner does not tell you what you are going to get for your money. They can literally give you a drink and a sandwich for £500 because you have signed a blank cheque.

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