Hidden hotel fees meet opposition

While the industry is busy debating when the cycle will hit its peak – or if it has already – the good times for the industry are reflected by increased hotel fees being tacked onto room rates.

Hotels love the fees because of the additional revenue they generate, with the small additional charges adding up as occupancy climbs higher. But Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is attacking the practice. The Democratic senator is fighting "non-optional" fees attached to the final bills received by guests.

"I don’t think it’s the government’s business what hotels charge," McCaskill told News-Press Now. "I do have a problem when someone goes online and is given a rate for their hotel, and they rely on that rate, and when they check out, they find fees tacked on that are not optional."

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McCaskill is joined by Travelers United, a nonprofit consumer group that is attempting to convince the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys to curtail the "resort fee," or include it in the room rate. The FTC is no stranger to this subject, and declared last year that such fees are not required to be displayed as part of a hotel's room rate.

The biggest issue this raises is one of guest satisfaction. It has been shown in surveys that guests prize open disclosure of fees, and most all of them want resort fees to be included in room rates. Disclosure is important to consumer trust, and the industry has shown that new fees can be introduced without too much of a hiccup in business as long as guests are aware of them before their stay. Case in point, MGM Resorts' decision to begin charging for parking at all 12 of its Las Vegas resorts was paired with a public announcement on the decision.

Though occupancy remains high despite increased fees, guest satisfaction is clearly taking a hit. The American Hotel & Lodging Association recently defended the resort fee in a story by The Globe and Mail, explaining that the fee pays for "a range of hotel amenities, from pool use, gym access, towel services, to WiFi and newspapers." 

Currently, 1,671 hotels in the U.S. charge resort fees, according to Travelers United, racking up $2.04-billion in mandatory charges during 2015, a 36-percent increase over 2014. 

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