Following is a sample of resort fees at U.S. properties:
$25 Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
$25 Terranea Resort
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
$27 JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
Palm Desert, Calif.
$60 W Retreat & Spa–Vieques Island
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Last year, U.S. hotels collected a stunning $1.8 billion in
surcharges and fees, according to a recent study. And a significant
portion of that sum came from resort fees, the daily charges imposed by
hotels to cover amenities like gym access, Internet use and daily
newspapers, according to the survey's author, Dr. Bjorn Hanson,
divisional dean at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality,
Tourism, and Sports at New York University.
The total might be
startling, but the fact that hotels and resorts are levying such fees at
a dizzying pace surprises few meeting planners. More than half of the
144 respondents to a recent M&C Research poll said resort fees have
become more prevalent in the past year. (For full survey results, click here)
And more will join the bandwagon this year, Hanson
predicts, as hotel executives scramble for ways to boost revenues when
there is so much pressure on room rates. Such fees and surcharges
emerged as an industry practice circa 1997 (in some cases as an
"amenities tariff"), says Hanson, and they have grown every year except
for periods after 2001 and 2008, when lodging demand declined. Resort
fees typically fall between $15 and $25, but they can be as high as $60
in some high-end venues.
Now, even properties that can't be
considered resorts are tacking on the extra charge. "These hotels might
have a golf course or just a larger than normal fitness center and
charge resort fees," notes Hanson. In a few cases, he says, properties
are charging fees per person, rather than per room. This can add up when
attendees share rooms or bring a spouse or guest.
professionals are understanding -- up to a point. "Just like airlines,
everybody is trying to get as much revenue today as they can," says Mimi
Almeida, an independent planner based in Walnut Creek, Calif. "I don't
blame hotels for charging resort fees, but it is up to us to get the
most value we can obtain for our groups."
However, she and other
planners take exception to five-star properties charging a resort fee
for items that traditionally have been complimentary, such as nightly
turndown service. And they want to negotiate, particularly when the fee
covers services attendees won't have the opportunity to use.
And planners get cranky when hotels won't budge. In fact, 44 percent of those polled by M&C are less likely to book a hotel or resort that refuses to reduce or eliminate resort fees for their groups.
To fee or not to feeIt's not surprising that most major hotel chains and individual
properties contacted for this story declined to comment on this
controversial topic. On the other hand, those that have taken a stance
against ancillary fees are very happy to talk. Caesars Entertainment,
for one, openly eschews the concept of resort fees and does not impose
them at its eight Las Vegas properties (including Caesars Palace, Planet
Hollywood, Harrah's and Bally's). The no-fee policy is a cornerstone of
the company's selling strategy to the meetings market, says Michael
Massari, senior vice president, Caesars Entertainment.
in the hospitality business, not in the business of bucketing things up
and charging planners for things they may or may not use," says Massari.
"I believe our job is to identify what our customers want and deliver
that. We never charged resort fees in the Vegas market. We just became
more public about it recently." Instead of all-encompassing fees,
Massari explains, Caesars properties give planners the option of
choosing the services they'll use. "Some of them are value-added, some
come for a fee, but the key is someone isn't deciding for you which ones
you will get."
Given the lucrative revenues resort fees
generate, Massari admits that failing to impose them is a hard business
decision for properties to make, but "for us, resort fees are too big a
dissatisfier. They are not hospitable and they are not transparent."
Caesars' research, adds Massari, shows that overall customer loyalty and
satisfaction have increased as a result of the policy.
hotel companies whose individual properties make such decisions, it's
more complicated. "There's no consistency, even within the same brand,"
says Nikki Nestor, president and CEO of Carlsbad, Calif.-based World
Class Travel by Invitation. The amount charged -- and what it covers --
can vary widely.
At Marriott, just 30 resorts in the company's
global portfolio of 3,600 properties charge a resort fee, says a
spokesperson, and those are in locations where such charges are the
norm. The fees, which vary by property, can cover services such as
parking, phone calls, use of the fitness center, bottled water, beach
chair service, shuttles, guided hikes, driving range access and Internet
At Joie de Vivre Hotels, which has a portfolio of 30
boutique properties and resorts chiefly in California, only three hotels
charge resort fees. "It's up to the property to decide if there will be
a fee," says a spokesperson. At the chain's Saguaro Palm Springs
(Calif.), which opened last month in a leisure destination, resort fees
are $18 per room, per day, and include parking, Wi-Fi, yoga, access to
the exercise room, local phone calls, pool service and towels. "We will
be flexible on this with groups, depending on size and time of year,"
says Joseph Jenci, director of sales.
At the 60-room Ventana Inn
and Spa, a Joie de Vivre property in Big Sur, Calif., the resort fee is
$28 per day and includes morning yoga, a guided property hike, a hosted
wine and cheese reception, and shuttle service to local shops and
restaurants. Fees are extremely important to the property's overall
revenue base, says sales manager Francisco Carrasco. However, he adds,
he is "somewhat flexible" about negotiating or eliminating them for
meetings or incentives -- particularly if the business brings "high
group room rates and a large number of room nights." (For more insight, click here.)