Fees are nothing new to the travel industry. It’s now expected that airlines charge extra for several amenities that used to be included in the price of a ticket such as baggage and seat assignments. Hotels also started adding ambiguous “resort fees”, which are basically a cash grab since they are largely not optional. And, recently, a major hotel management company in the US began rolling out à la carte fees for things like using the pool or early check-in.
Hotels Experiment with A la Carte Pricing
MCR Hotels, which manages 125 hotels across the U.S., including the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the High Line Hotel in Manhattan, is now testing out the new pricing model at approximately a dozen of its independently owned hotels.
Guests may find lower nightly rates, but could be surprised to find out that they’ll have to pay extra for certain services or amenities when they arrive at the property. CEO Tyler Morse told The Wall Street Journal, “Not every guest wants every product, and they don’t want to pay for something they were never going to use anyway.”
A few of the fees mentioned include:
- Pool access on the weekends
- Early check-in
- Late check-out
- Gym access
While you may be able to use the pool for free during the week, Morse suggested adding a $25 fee during peak times such as weekends. He said anyone could check-in early or check-out late for a fee around $20. Fees for using the gym and breakfast were also mentioned, but specifics were left out. It’s highly likely that these fees will vary by property and they could be expanded to include even more amenities that used to be free.
For example, I searched for a night at the TWA Hotel and discovered an option to add early check-in or late check-out during booking for fees that ranged from $25 up to $150 depending on how early I wanted to check-in or how late I wanted to check-out.
Is This Different Than a Resort Fee?
Resort fees, which are sometimes called destination fees or other names, are highly controversial due to the fact that they often are not disclosed until just before you book and must be paid to the hotel when you check-in (i.e., not optional).
The hotel gives you a list of what the fee covers, which usually includes multiple amenities you’d expect to be included such as WiFi and local telephone calls. But you’ll be required to pay this fee regardless of whether or not you plan to use those services.
In this way, the new à la carte pricing model is different because you will have a choice to pay extra to use the pool or go to the gym. If all you want is just a bed and a bathroom, you will only pay the initial price you were quoted.
Will Major Hotel Chains Follow?
While major hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton have adopted resort fees at several of their properties across the U.S., there are no plans to introduce à la carte pricing similar to what MCR Hotels is testing. Marriott executive Tony Capuano said there would likely be “push back” from guests against a la carte pricing and that most hotel owners wouldn’t support it.
However, if the hotel industry follows a similar path as the airline industry has over the past few decades, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more hotels adopt a similar pricing model. In fact, this model isn’t exactly new for hotels. Many do charge for enhanced internet and some are even starting to charge extra for daily housekeeping.
More Hotel Fees Are Likely to Stick
According to a report from the airline consulting firm IdeaWorks, airlines took in an extra $109.5 billion worldwide in ancillary revenue in 2019. While this dropped to nearly half that amount in 2020 due to the pandemic, it shows that adding extra fees is a money maker in the travel industry.
Some hotels may be reluctant to jump on board at first just as major legacy airlines didn’t initially follow the pricing model of discount airlines. Nowadays, you’ll find extra fees on nearly all airlines. And at least one hotel management company believes this will be the future for hotels as well.
We can only hope that this move will lead to lower prices. MCR Hotels says that by charging the extra fees for amenities, it can offer lower room rates to bring in travelers who wouldn’t plan on using the gym or the pool. While this may be true initially, it will be difficult to determine as time goes on and will surely make comparison shopping for hotels much more complicated when consumers have to navigate extra fees for the comforts that were once expected.
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