Following the 2014 record of $2.35 billion, total fees and surcharges collected by U.S. hotels are forecast to increase to another record level of $2.47 billion in 2015, according to a trend analysis report by Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies, Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.
The increase for 2015 reflects a combination of approximately 3 percent more occupied hotel rooms
than in 2014, more charging of fees and surcharges, and higher amounts charged, for a total increase of approximately 5 percent.
Fees and surcharges emerged as a common industry practice around 1997. Another phase for fees and surcharges was when energy surcharges were introduced for a large number of hotels in 2000.
Examples of fees and surcharges include: resort or amenity fees, early departure fees, reservation
cancellation fees, internet fees, telephone call surcharges, some business center fees (including charges for receiving faxes and sending/receiving overnight packages), room service delivery surcharges, mini-bar restocking fees, charges for in-room safes, automatic gratuities and surcharges, and baggage holding fees for guests leaving luggage with bell staff after checking out of a hotel but before departure, and charges for unattended parking. For groups there have been increased charges for bartenders and other staff at events, special charges for set-up and breakdown of meeting rooms, and administrative fees for master folio billing.
There are few new fees and surcharges, but some of the newer categories include charging for early check in, primarily for resorts, especially in Las Vegas (typically check in time might be 3 p.m., but if a guest arrives earlier and a guestroom is available, there is usually no charge for early check in) and for guaranteeing a specific room type (a room with a king bed rather than a room that might have two queen beds; note, this is generally a conditional guarantee).
Other of the more recently introduced fees and surcharges include charging for unattended surface parking in suburban locations and holding checked luggage.
U.S. lodging industry fees and surcharges have increased every year except for brief periods following
2001 and 2008 when lodging demand declined.
Fees and surcharges are highly profitable; many have incremental profitability of 80 to 90 percent or
more of the amounts collected.
Some fees and surcharges are sometimes called “hidden” or “surprise,” but disclosure on websites, confirmation emails, “tent” cards in guestrooms, room service menus, and guest service binders continues to increase. One of the reasons for the sense that some of these fees and surcharges are “hidden” or “surprise” is that they are often established and the amounts set hotel-by-hotel rather than by brand, and both can change frequently.
In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission Division of Advertising Practices issued 22 warning letters to the hotel industry about disclosure of resort fees, but as recently as July 2015, they have not taken the position that these fees are inappropriate if disclosed.
There are occasional statements that it would be better to include resort and other fees and surcharges in room rates, but there are several reasons this is not the general practice, including that the higher room rate would subject the fee amount to municipal occupancy taxes; room rates change frequently and are closely monitored by many travelers but resort and other fees and surcharges change less frequently; and the focus of many travelers on room rate.