While a relaxing resort vacation can send guests into a state of euphoria, their happy mood can quickly turn sour at checkout when they discover a long list of fees and surcharges tacked onto their bill.
U.S. hotels collected an estimated record high of $2.25 billion in fees and surcharges in 2014, according to a trend analysis report from Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management. Hanson’s report charts the steady rise of resort and amenity fees over the past 12 years, with travelers now encountering everything from mini-bar restocking fees and room service delivery surcharges to automatic gratuities during their stay.
Given the highly profitable nature of fees, it’s no surprise that many resorts are hesitant to eliminate them, even if it results in guest complaints. But a handful of properties have taken their guests’ advice by rolling fees into their room rates—and they’re reaping the benefits in increased revenue and positive reviews.
Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, N.Y., has seen great success since implementing what general manager Chris Pulito calls a “resort-inclusive concept.” After eliminating the resort fee three years ago, the property turned its focus toward adding value by folding all other amenities, such as Internet access, daily breakfast, and various entertainment sources into its packages. “If guests stroll by an ice skating rink, a s’mores pit, or a movie theater, they feel like they can participate without taking out their wallet,” Pulito explains. “It’s not just that we have these amenities but that our guests feel as though they committed to a price that covers their experience.”
Since the switch, Pulito has noticed that guests are spending more money at the resort. For instance, more guests are dining on property rather than giving the business to a restaurant down the road—and they’re buying an extra martini or ordering dessert with dinner.
While Whiteface Lodge has benefited from this resort-inclusive approach, Pulito stresses that it may not be right for every hotel, especially select-service properties. Hanson agrees that ditching fees is far from an industry-wide trend at this point. “There are some brands and some specific resorts and hotels that are eliminating resort fees, but those are the exceptions,” Hanson says.