5/1 Update: Starting May 15, Marriott hotel rates will already include resort fees when displayed on Marriott.com and Marriott's English language app. This change will only be to Marriott channels, not the rates displayed on Expedia or other OTAs. Note that the resort fee-inclusive pricing is for paid rates; Bonvoy free night award rates don't include the resort fees, even though Marriott hotels that levy resort fees charge them on free night awards (unlike Hyatt and Hilton).
4/13/23 Update: Marriott has been fined $225,000 by Pennsylvania for failing to comply with the original 2021 settlement on resort fees, and a court order requires Marriott to comply by May 15, 2023. The settlement applies to how Marriott discloses mandatory fees, including resort fees, on all U.S. Web sites, mobile applications, and U.S. consumers who call a Marriott call center.
Marriott Hotels Will Disclose Resort Fees Upfront in the Booking Process, as part of a settlement with Pennsylvania's Attorney General. The agreement so far is only with Marriott, although Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro hopes other hotel chains will follow suit.
Resort fees, also called destination fees, are some of U.S. consumers' most hated fees associated with traveling. Ostensibly they include internet access, fitness center usage, and sometimes other amenities, but many hotels and resorts that don't charge resort fees include these amenities baked into the room rate.
When DisneyWorld surveyed visitors about possibly adding resort fees to DisneyWorld hotels, unsurprisingly, 86% were opposed. Resort fees can range from a few dollars a night to the $125 a night that Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Puerto Rico (and part of Marriott) charges. Since 2012, Marriott has collected $220 million in resort fees.
So why do so many hotels continue to charge resort fees that travelers despise? The short answer: because they can get away with it. The longer answer:
1) Hotels want to present a lower price to attract attention when promoting the property against competing hotels, then sneak in the resort fee at the end of the booking process, when you're more committed to booking
2) As a corollary to 1), resorts in a destination where most hotels charge a resort fee, such as Las Vegas, are also likely to add a resort fee to “even the playing field,” enabling them to showcase a lower room rate before taxes and fees, as otherwise their rates won't appear to be competitive
3) Resort fees allow room rates to be lower, increasing the amount the hotel keeps for itself and reducing commission paid to travel agencies.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s investigation focused on Marriott's “drip pricing,” where resort fees are only gradually disclosed to travelers during the booking process. Whether due to small text or hyperlinks or a complete lack of information, travelers often don’t discover the total price of the hotel booking, including the resort fee, until the last page in the online booking process. Sometimes they're unaware of the resort fee until they check in at the hotel or review their bill when checking out. Shapiro argued that drip pricing is deceptive and a violation of Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection Law.
Marriott said it will be working over the next several months “to update room rate display” to fully disclose resort fees on its U.S. channels.
“Marriott has committed to prominently disclose the total price of a hotel stay, including room rate and all other mandatory fees, on the first page of its booking website as part of the total room rate,” the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General said in a statement. “Marriott has committed to implementing these changes within the next nine months. This will benefit not just Pennsylvanians, but consumers nationwide.”
Specifically, here's what Marriott is supposed to do:
- Prominent Display of All Fees: Marriott must clearly and conspicuously disclose all mandatory fees (including resort fees) and the total price inclusive of these fees.
- Oral Quotes Also Include Mandatory/Resort Fees: Since some consumers call and rely on call center agent quotes, these oral quotes must also state all mandatory fees, such as resort fees, and the total price including these fees.
- Fees Broken Out from Taxes: Resort fees may NOT be bundled into a general “taxes and fees” line item; they must be a separate line item.
- Sorting By Price Takes Into Account Fees: If a consumer sorts by price, the sorting must be done based on total price, taking into account mandatory fees.
- Description of What the Fee Includes: Marriott must clearly and conspicuously disclose some or all of the goods and services covered by any mandatory or resort fee.
- Marriott Must Provide the Same Fees Data to OTAs: Marriott must provide the same mandatory/resort fee data it shows on its own Web site to online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, etc. This is important for accurate total price comparisons.
What's the worst resort fee you've ever encountered?
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