While a lot of attention has been focused on fees the airlines are piling on to basic fares, the hotel business has also been steadily gaining revenue from adding charges to the basic room rate.
This year, hotels in the United States will collect an estimated $2.1 billion in fees and surcharges, up from $2 billion in 2012, according to an analysis by the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.
Of course, that’s small potatoes compared with the airline industry’s revenue from fees, which totaled $6 billion last year just in charges for checked bags and for changing an itinerary. Still, “the airline industry has created great cover that has emboldened the hotel industry,” said Bjorn Hanson, the divisional dean at the center.
Fee revenue has more than doubled in the last 10 years as many hotels — especially convention, resort and luxury ones — add charges to the bill for services like the use of a business center or an Internet connection, and in some cases apply “resort fees” that essentially are surcharges for using the hotel’s facilities.
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Fees are also being added at some hotels for early checkout, receiving faxes and overnight packages, automatic gratuities and even things like minibar restocking, availability of in-room safes and mandatory valet parking.
Hey, don’t get me started. While attending a conference at a resort hotel in Phoenix two years ago, I was amazed to find a $12 charge for porterage — bellhop service, even though, like many of you, I always wheel my own bags. And charges for housekeeping service — that is, making your bed and cleaning your room — also turn up here and there.
How can you beat the fees? Many midlevel hotels with strong bases in business travel provide a range of services without any extra charge — from free Internet and business-center access to free breakfasts and in some cases even a free evening cocktail hour with snacks. I will enthusiastically stay when it’s feasible at one of these brands, whether a Hampton Inn or Garden Inn, a Country Inns and Suites, a Marriott Residence — to name just a few in that market niche.