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Coming Soon to a Hotel Near You: Nuisance Fees

SmarterTravel

It’s taken years, but today unbundled pricing is pretty much the industry standard when it comes to airfares. The airlines advertise a “base” fare, and charge extra for checked bags, a pre-reserved seat, frequent-flyer miles, and on and on ad nauseum.

Consumers fume about the nickel-and-diming and roll their eyes. But they’ve acclimated to the new model, and understand that there’s no going back to inclusive pricing. Shoulders have been shrugged.

Now, apparently, it’s the hotels’ turn.

A report from NYU’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism released this month is forecasting that hotel fees and surcharges will reach $2.47 billion in 2015, the highest level ever.

The report notes that hotel fees aren’t new; they’ve been around at least since 1997, in the form of phone surcharges, fees to send and receive faxes, mini-bar restocking fees, and the like. But as fees go, those are relatively benign, not least because they can be understood to cover additional costs incurred by hotels to provide them. If I cap my night with a bottle of Lowenbrau from the mini-bar, I expect to be charged for it.

But as the airlines have done with many of their fees, the hotels are increasingly sneaking in surcharges for services that cost little or nothing to provide, like early check-in or smoke-free rooms.

If the hotels continue following the airlines’ lead, travelers can expect to see the unbundling continue, with an ever-lengthening list of standard offerings converted into extra-cost options. Extra fees for a room on a higher floor, or with a particular view, or further from the elevators. Maybe make housekeeping optional, with an extra charge for a daily clean-up. Per-minute surcharges to watch the in-room TV. A base hotel rate that doesn’t include pillows on the bed, or towels in the bathroom?

The possibilities run the gamut, some as comical as they are vexing. But make no mistake: They are possibilities. And in conference rooms at any number of major hotel chains, they are being discussed and evaluated by marketing executives. After all, the airlines racked up $38.1 billion in fees during 2014. That’s a potential windfall the hotels can’t afford to ignore.

Reader Reality Check

Are you ready for the coming hotel fee-for-all?

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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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