Hotel Saint Louis’ nightly “sustainability fee”
A FlyerTalk user noticed that Hotel Saint Louis, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, has added a new fee for hotel stays. Specifically, the hotel is charging a $4.99 nightly “sustainability fee.” This fee isn’t referenced when rates are initially displayed, but rather it’s just added at the end of the booking process, as part of the all-in price.
There’s nothing on the hotel’s website referencing what this fee is used towards. Is this fee going towards environmental sustainability? Towards business sustainability? Towards employment sustainability? Towards the investment firm that owns the hotel continuing to be able to sustain a private jet?
I decided to phone up the front desk of the hotel to confirm that this fee is legitimate, and to ask what it goes towards. The front desk agent was super nice, but I could sense he didn’t really know what to say:
Me: “Hi, I’m looking at rates on the hotel’s website, and see that there’s a ‘sustainability fee’ listed. I’ve never seen that before. Do you know what that’s for?”
Agent: “It’s… okay… ummm… its kind of… ummm… like… taxes…”
He was literally nervously laughing and obviously uncomfortable, presumably because he realizes it’s BS, and probably because staff haven’t been given proper guidance as to what to actually say when asked about this.
Why this hotel fee is outrageously ridiculous
Historically hotels have tried to charge add-on fees like destination and resort fees for two reasons:
- It allows them to display a lower price initially, and increase the price during the booking process
- They only have to pay online travel agencies a commission on the base rate, and not the fees
Destination and resort fees have been incredibly frustrating over the years to many consumers, since they’re junk fees that are essentially intended to mislead consumers into thinking rates are lower than they are. Marriott was even sued over these fees, and in a settlement agreed to start more prominently displaying fees.
It seems highly unethical to add a “sustainability fee” without actually having serious sustainability initiatives, and being transparent to consumers about what those are. Most major hotels are owned by large investment firms, and I don’t think padding their pockets really does much to help sustainability.
Here’s the thing — a sustainability fee, if done correctly, wouldn’t be the worst fee on earth. Now, ideally a hotel would use its profits for that, but worst case scenario, at least tell us what’s being done. For example, Skt. Petri Copenhagen is an independent hotel that charges a sustainability fee of ~$2.30 per guest per stay. And the website makes it clear what this goes towards:
As a hotel we are co-responsible for ensuring that the environmental footprint of our activities is reduced to a minimum. By charging a specific sustainability fee we make our green efforts more visible to our guests and help them discover all the things we do at Skt. Petri to achieve a green transition.
The proceeds of the fee will be used primarily for investments in new sustainability initiatives in supplement of the green efforts financed by our daily operations. Among the new initiatives planned for 2020 and 2021 are the testing and development of a new plant that in the long term will reduce our Co2 footprint and make us almost self-sufficient in electricity from a local, sustainable source.
Hotel Skt. Petri publishes an annual report with a detailed account of its sustainability efforts and achievements. This enables all our guests to follow the way in which the sustainability fee paid by them contributes to a green transition at our hotel.
Would I prefer the hotel just raise rates by a couple of dollars and undertake initiatives with those proceeds? Sure. But I see where the hotel is coming from, and I appreciate the transparency.
Meanwhile Hotel Saint Louis is adding a roughly $5 nightly fee, clearly in hopes of people not noticing it, with no explanation of what it’s for.
Hotel Saint Louis, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, has added a new nightly “sustainability fee,” with no explanation of what it’s for. A front desk agent compared it to taxes, but it’s not clear what exactly this fee goes towards.
Has anyone been charged a hotel sustainability fee before? Where do you think this ranks on the list of ridiculous hotel fees?