Mandatory hotel fees are exploding in these cities. 


mandatory hotel feesA troubling new report about mandatory hotel fees (also known as resort fees) suggests mandatory room surcharges are spreading faster than a summer wildfire. It’s sure to stoke the anger of travelers, many of whom are being burned by these nonnegotiable extras when they check out.

In the last 12 months ending in July, the number of hotels charging controversial mandatory hotel fees has grown by 14 percent, according to ResortFeeChecker.com, a site that tracks resort fees.

“I’m continuing to see the amount charged per night increase dramatically,” says Randy Greencorn, the site’s publisher. Overall, mandatory hotel fees increased by almost 11 percent year over year, and the average hotel resort fee now stands at around $21 per night.

Here’s where you’ll find the worst mandatory hotel fees

Florida is the unofficial home of the mandatory hotel fee, with the Sunshine State having the top two cities and four in the top 10. Las Vegas, Honolulu, and New York also have high resort fees. The most dramatic growth of mandatory hotel fees took place in the Big Apple, where the number of hotels doubled from last year.

Resortfeechecker.com also tracks individual properties with high resort fees. The outliers, reported here for the first time, may be even more disturbing. Its list includes a property in Miami that charges $160 a night as a mandatory hotel fee, higher than the average room rate in many U.S. cities, and a Myrtle Beach property that bills its guests an additional $84 a night.

Download Hotel Early Check-In ChecklistWhat’s wrong with mandatory hotel fees?

What do travelers hate about mandatory hotel fees, which cover amenities like “free” Wi-Fi and fitness center access? Everything. Hotels typically quote an initial rate that doesn’t include these fees, giving travelers an illusion of a lower price. As guests move toward the final booking screen, hotels add taxes and mandatory hotel fees. Surprise!

That kind of consumer deception, referred to as “drip” pricing, was nearly outlawed by the Federal Trade Commission a few years ago. Instead, the government backed down after the presidential election. Meanwhile, the Australian government took the lead in consumer-friendly pricing regulations, requiring that the price you’re quoted is the price you pay.

Hotels claim that mandatory hotel fees allow guests to have an all-inclusive experience when they stay at their property. And while that’s technically true, it glosses over the fact that the fee sometimes isn’t disclosed until almost the moment you pay for the hotel stay online or by phone. Also, guests almost never have a choice about paying the fees. Not using the pool or exercise equipment doesn’t mean the resort fee is stricken from your bill. And that, say many guests, is wrong.

Here are the 10 cities with the most expensive mandatory hotel fees

These are the 10 cities with the highest mandatory hotel fees, as well as the hotel in that market with the most expensive resort fee. All of the information is from the Resortfeechecker.com study, except where noted. This list is accurate as of Aug. 1, 2018.

Miami

Average resort fee: $25 a night
Change from last year: + 6.6%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 146
Highest fee: Fisher Island Club and Resort ($160 a night). It’s the highest in the United States.
What you get: The resort fee, also referred to as a daily “club membership fee” includes access to South Florida’s most exclusive seaside golf country club, racquet club, casual and fine dining restaurants, spa, salon and wellness center, marinas, private beach club, the Vanderbilt Mansion pool and access to the club’s “exclusive member events.”

Orlando, Fla.

Average resort fee: $14 a night
Change from last year: + 9.2%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 141
Highest fee: Waldorf Astoria Orlando ($40 a night)
What you get: The Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s “resort charge” includes “premium” Wi-Fi access throughout the resort and public areas, two welcome drinks, access to its spa and fitness center, bike rentals (based on availability), access to the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club practice facilities, “complimentary” golf club rental after 2 p.m., 10 percent off spa treatments and pool cabana rentals, and “unlimited access” to in-room local and toll free calls.

Las Vegas

Average resort fee: $29 a night
Change from last year: + 9.7%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 107
Highest fee: Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas ($51 a night)
What you get: The Mandarin Oriental does not have a dedicated page for its resort fee, and only discloses it several clicks into the online booking process. But it lists the following amenities for its rooms: digital content on demand, double sink, goose down bedding, HD television, high-speed Wi-Fi, large work desk, plush terry bathrobes, “spa-like” bathroom and twice-daily housekeeping.

New York

Average resort fee: $28 a night
Change from last year: +15.8%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 92
Highest fee: Hotel 48LEX New York ($58 a night)
What you get: The House Privileges program at 48LEX provides “an array of tailored services and thoughtful amenities.” The fee, “conveniently added to your folio,” ensures an “effortless, relaxing and luxurious stay” that includes a daily light European-style breakfast served in the second floor lounge, all day gourmet coffee and teas, afternoon tea, an evening wine and cheese reception, lounge access, evening turndown service “on request,” “premium” Wi-Fi for all devices, bottled water in room and access to its fitness facilities. (Note that the 48LEX site says the fee is $30 a night.)

Oahu

Average resort fee: $25 a night
Change from last year: + 10.4%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 64
Highest fee: Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach ($35 a night)
What you get: The hotel’s daily “resort amenity fee” covers wireless high-speed internet access, two welcome Mai Tais, fitness center and spa access, Hawaiian cultural classes, pool deck amenities, water, coffee, a self-service 24-hour workspace, complimentary boarding pass, printing and copying services, surfboard storage, unlimited local and 60-minute-long distance/international telephone calls, and “free” breakfast buffet for children under age five. According to the website Travel Hawaii, the fee will net the hotel more than $9 million this year, and does not include parking, which costs an extra $25 a day plus tax.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Average resort fee: $13 a night
Change from last year: + 23%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 64
Highest fee: Plantation Resort, Surfside Beach, S.C. ($84 a night). It’s the fourth-highest resort fee on the list.
What you get: The resort does not explain the fee on its site, but its amenities include “semi-tropical breezes while you relax by the pool,” an on-site water playground encircled by a lazy river, a heated whirlpool, availability of outdoor activities such as golf, biking and swimming.

San Diego

Average resort fee: $22 a night
Change from last year: 13.7%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 45
Highest fee: Fairmont Grand Del Mar ($40 a night)
What you get: The daily resort fee, which is meant to “offer an enhanced experience,” includes resort-wide business internet access, local, domestic long distance and toll-free calls, complimentary self-parking, daily fitness or yoga class, golf practice facilities, pro-style tennis courts access, “complimentary” in-room coffee, tea and bottled water, daily digital newspaper, overnight shoe shine, and guided Saturday morning nature walks in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.

Fort Lauderdale

Average resort fee: $19 a night
Change from last year: -10%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 44
Highest fee: The Atlantic Hotel & Spa ($37 a night)
What you get: The Atlantic’s daily resort fee covers “complimentary” basic WiFi, 24-hour access business center, “complimentary” use of sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy tub, access to fitness center, a daily resort drink, and “complimentary” in-room water.

Phoenix

Average resort fee: $24 a night
Change from last year: +17.3%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 39
Highest fee: Arizona Grand Resort ($50 a night)
What you get: The hotel’s resort fee includes standard high-speed wireless, four water park wristbands, Athletic Club admittance, valet and overnight parking, coffee, newspaper, shuttle service to the Arizona Mills Mall, “unlimited” toll-free, local and collect phone calls, 20 percent off one round of golf, and one “free” appetizer from the lobby bar with a purchase of two drinks of equal value.

Florida Keys

Average resort fee: $24 a night
Change from last year: -3.6%
Number of hotels with a mandatory resort fee: 39
Highest fee: Isla Bella Beach Resort ($50 a night)
What you get: The hotel doesn’t say, but Expedia says the required fee includes pool access, spa access, beach access, beach loungers, fitness center access, sporting facilities or equipment, children’s club/arcade access, bicycle storage, internet access, phone calls, in-room safe, in-room coffee, in-room bottled water, concierge/valet service, and parking.

What this list of mandatory hotel fees means

There are a few common themes in these mandatory hotel fees that raise a few important questions:

  • Finding information on mandatory hotel fees is difficult. Many hotels don’t have a dedicated page that explains its resort fee. Others don’t disclose the fees until you’re deep into the booking process. If hotels believe this is a terrific deal, why hide it?
  • Words like “free” and “complimentary” often appear in the amenity description. (The most egregious example is “free” toll-free calls.) But “free” means guests don’t pay for them. If they must pay a daily resort fee, is it really free?
  • When pressed to explain the value of their mandatory hotel fees, hotels proudly announce that the required charges make their stays “more inclusive.” But the amenities listed under their fees are loaded with significant restrictions. In at least one case, the fee doesn’t even include parking. If resort fees make a hotel stay inclusive, why do you have to pay extra for parking and other amenities, like fast internet access?

As mandatory hotel fees (or resort fees) expand, hotels will be under more pressure to answer these simple questions. If they can’t, it won’t be a question if, but when, the government will put an end to what many say is an unfair and deceptive trade practice.