Have you ever started to book a hotel room that looked affordable, until you get to the checkout page and find it’s actually much more money? Suddenly, your $99 per night room costs $130 a night due to resort fees. You wonder, “What is a resort fee, and why is it so expensive?”
More and more hotels are starting to charge resort fees, but why?
In this article we’ll be answering some of your most pressing questions, from what they are, why they exist, and if guests can avoid them.
What resort fees are and how they work
With the rise of competition like VRBO and Airbnb, traditional hotels have struggled to compete with the appeal of affordable travel alternatives. Many hotels, both resort and not, have begun to implement or increase resort fees as an effort to generate additional hotel revenue, much to the chagrin of travel-lovers.
What is a resort fee?
A resort fee is a fee charged in addition to the hotel room rate to cover hotel-specific services and amenities not included in the room rate. Resort fees are charged by resorts, casinos, and other hotels on a nightly basis, not per stay. These fees are also typically charged on a per room basis, not per person, and may be disguised as “destination fees,” “facility fees” or “amenity fees”.
While it is not mandatory for hotels to charge guests a resort fee, they are mandatory charges for guests staying at hotels that charge them. The expenses covered in a resort fee can vary from hotel to hotel, as each property has the ability to choose what’s covered by the charge.
Resort fees may be advertised to cover a wide variety of expenses:
● Access to an on-site gym, pool, or other areas
● Concierge service
● Internet access
● Shuttle service
● Beach access
● Dining credits
● Bike rentals
● In-room amenities such as coffee or an in-room safe
While resort fees may include certain hotel services, amenities, and access to different areas, they do not include tips or gratuity for hotel staff. Some travelers assume that tips for housekeeping, concierge service, or luggage delivery are included in the resort fee, but the fee is paid directly to the hotel.
How much do resort fees cost?
Resort fees can vary greatly from property to property. While some hotels charge a minimal resort fee as low as $5-10 each night, the average resort fee costs travelers between $25-35 each night.
There is no limit to what hotels can charge for resort fees, and some hotels take that freedom to the extreme. The Fisher Island Club Hotel and Resort in Miami Beach charges a resort fee of $160 per night!
From location to location, the average cost of resort fees can vary drastically as well. Florida ranks as the state with the highest number of hotels that charge resort fees, and it’s no surprise that Las Vegas, New York, and Myrtle Beach rank as having some of the most expensive resort fees in the United States.
Randy Greencorn, the publisher of ResortFeeChecker.com, estimates that hotel resort fees increase by almost 11% each year. Travelers can expect prices to keep going up.
Why are guests willing to pay resort fees?
Hotels that charge resort fees are using a marketing strategy that psychologists refer to as ¨partitioned pricing” or “drip pricing.” Partitioned pricing is the practice of presenting a price to the consumer in separate, but mandatory components in an attempt to change the customer’s perception of the cost.
In the case of resort fees, instead of seeing a high advertised room rate, customers are presented with a seemingly low room rate, plus the mandatory resort fee. While the overall cost of the room ends up being much higher than estimated each night, the customer may perceive that they're getting a deal. In fact, it’s common for travelers to choose to book lower room rates with a resort fee over a higher advertised all-inclusive rate, even when the overall cost is very similar.
How do resort fees affect hotel guests?
Resort fees, at the end of the day, are meant to benefit the hotel more than the guest. By appealing to customers with lower room rates, hotels are able to bring in more revenue each year by tacking on the mandatory fee. There are a few ways, however, in which resort fees benefit the guest as well.
Resort fees ensure access to desirable amenities and services
Guests are guaranteed the access, amenities and services included in their resort fee. When a traveler pays a resort fee that includes internet access for two devices, the hotel is guaranteeing that service will be available for up to two devices.
The primary reason that resort fees get waived is because amenities covered in the resort fee are unavailable. If the hotel wifi goes down, and the resort fee specifically covers internet access, for instance, hoteliers should be prepared to waive the fee or face some very unhappy travelers.
See what services are included and budget for additional expenses
Resort fees may cover some hotel services, but not all of them. Pay close attention to any resort fee information when booking. Look to see if expenses like parking or guest laundry are included in the resort fee, and plan for additional expenses in your travel budget as needed.
While hoteliers may argue that resort fees ultimately benefit the guest, not the hotel, most travelers are not fans of spending extra money for the perceived benefit.
Resort fees can be costly
Travel is expensive in general, and resort fees don’t make traveling on a budget any easier. While a hotel stay may look affordable in the beginning, the total cost can jump significantly once the resort fee is tacked on to the room rate.
Hidden resort fees are an unpleasant surprise
US law does not require resort fee disclosure in the initial phases of the booking process. Many guests don’t know there’s a resort fee at all before they start checking in. While some hotels choose to wait to advertise the resort fee until you reach the confirmation page of your booking, some hotels choose not to disclose the fee online at all. Instead, they inform guests during the check-in process when guests provide their credit card information.
Despite the fact that this process has caused major distrust from travelers over the years, this predatory pricing practice is perfectly legal, although frowned upon by most in the industry. Hotels that charge hidden resort fees can expect to have less customer loyalty than properties that operate with transparency.
Guests could pay for unwanted services
Resort fees apply to every guest, despite what you intend to do during your stay. Unfortunately, this means you could still be charged for amenities you don’t use during your stay. Even if you don’t need the wifi, or intend to hit the fitness facility, don’t expect to get out of the resort fee.
Resort fees are not guaranteed to cover all hotel expenses
Although some hotels argue that resort fees give them the ability to offer an “all-inclusive” experience for guests, there may be other property expenses not included in the fee. Watch out for hotels that charge an additional fee for parking, or other expenses, in addition to the hotel fee. Costs can stack up quickly.
According to a 2018 Consumer Report, resort fees bring in approximately $3 billion in revenue annually. In an industry struggling to remain profitable in an increasingly saturated market, the number of hotels adding resort fees is increasing. Even in the face of risking guest satisfaction, it’s unlikely that resort fees are going away anytime soon—not with so much revenue on the line for competing hotels.
Resort Fee FAQs
1. Will hotels waive resort fees?
There are a few occasions when hotels are likely to waive resort fees for a guest, but typically not by guest request. Hotels that charge resort fees get waiver requests constantly, so don’t expect them to forgo the policy just because you asked.
Most hotels who offer rewards programs waive resort fees for overnight stays booked with rewards points. Resorts and casinos commonly run promotions where they waive resort fees during the slower months. Many Luxury hotels choose to waive resort fees for their VIP guests as well—just as casinos do for their “high rollers.”
2. Do all resorts have resort fees?
Not all hotels charge resort fees, but resort fees are not exclusive to resorts either. While resorts, casinos, and luxury hotels have long charged these fees to cover services and access to amenities, many non-resort hotels are beginning to charge resort fees as well. It has become a common practice for traditional hotels in high-demand areas, like San Francisco and New York, to charge resort fees across the board.
3. Do hotel reward program members pay resort fees?
Most hotels that offer rewards programs waive resort fees for members paying for their stay with rewards or points. Rewards members are usually charged a resort fee for standard bookings and combination bookings paid with points and cash.
4. Do all-inclusive resorts charge resort fees?
All-inclusive resorts do not charge guests an additional resort fee. “All-inclusive” refers to a hotel that includes the cost of all fees and services in the price of the room rate itself. While all-inclusive rates may appear higher than other non-inclusive resorts in the area, guests know the full cost up front.
5. Do I have to pay resort fees?
Resort fees are considered mandatory charges at most of the hotels who charge them. Unless you’re booking a rewards stay, are a VIP, or have received previous approval from a manager, you should expect to pay the resort fee at a hotel who charges one, even if you don’t use the services included in the fee. You can always ask, of course, but don’t get your hopes up.