Hidden Charges Bemoaned by Travelers, Are Climbing Higher Than Ever

Tamara Myers thought that her hotel bill at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino would come to $415. At least that’s what Otel.com, the website through which she booked the room, promised her. But the site glossed over a small detail: a mandatory daily “resort fee” payable at checkout, which added $306 to the folio.

Gotcha.

“I did my due diligence,” insists Myers, who lives in Indianapolis and works for the military. She’d made the reservation for her 88-year-old mother, who was caring for her brother in Las Vegas. “The fee was listed nowhere on Otel.com.”

Mandatory resort fees, tacked onto a hotel bill after an initial price quote — and sometimes even later, as with Myers — are on the rise again. A total of 1,026 domestic hotels charged a resort fee for the first half of 2017, a 14?percent increase from just six months ago, according to new research from Resortfeechecker.com, a site that allows travelers to look up resort fees at hotels worldwide. The average resort fee, which covers everything from “free” WiFi to access to exercise facilities, now stands at almost $21, a jump of 8.7 percent from last December. The biggest increases came in large metropolitan cities, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where resort fees are up by a whopping 70 percent in six months. “Until recently, most hotels in these cities didn’t charge a fee,” says Randy Greencorn, publisher of Resortfeechecker.com.

No wonder, then, that frustration with resort fees is reaching a boiling point. They’re difficult to fight once they’ve been added to a bill. Government action on the fees, once thought to be inevitable, has stalled. Resort fees are classic travel industry sleight-of-hand — you’re quoted one price, you pay another — yet for now they remain perfectly legal. How so? Hotels are only required to disclose the fee before the booking is made, but not when the initial price quote is made. The Westgate’s site warns that a resort fee of $29.95 plus tax a night “may” apply. A search for a weekly room rate in August shows a price of $781 for a standard “Signature” room. The next screen downplays the final room rate, which, after taxes and resort fees, comes to $1,192, a 53 percent increase. You have to click an arrow to get a price breakdown.

Otel.com shows an asterisk and refers to resort fees under “Hotel Information” on its booking page. “Some hotels do charge a resort fee which must be paid to the hotel directly,” it warns. “Otel.com is not responsible for resort fee charges and has no control over their implementation.” Only a few months ago, resort fees were headed for extinction. The Federal Trade Commission signaled that the fees as they are currently advertised by most hotels were “unfair and deceptive.” The agency was poised to announce a policy shift that would require resort fees to be included in the initial price quote, according to multiple sources.