When traveling to popular vacation destinations, you might find an extra charge tacked on to your hotel room bill, labeled as a “resort fee.” What exactly is this charge, what do you get for it, and do you really have to pay it? Read on to find out.
What Is a Resort Fee?
Say a hotel targets $125 a night in room revenue. But it also wants to appear to be a good deal, especially with high competition on third-parting booking sites. So, instead of $125, the hotel lists its rate as $100, but it still gets the targeted $125 by adding a mandatory $25 fee, which guests pay when they check out of the hotel. To make this fee seem reasonable, hotels come up a laundry list of services that they say the fee covers, such as access to the pool, Wi-Fi, parking, a fancy fitness center, or whatever else sounds plausible.
And if one hotel starts tacking on resort fees in a certain destination, other hotels will follow.
Many hotels have different names for these charges such as “amenity fee,” “housekeeping fee,” or “concierge fee,” but they operate in the same way as resort fees. Unfortunately, not using the “amenities” doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for them … so if you’re looking to avoid resort fees, it’s best to find a hotel or property that doesn’t charge one.
The Federal Trade Commission conducted an analysis of hotel resort fees in 2017 and stated that “separating mandatory resort fees from posted room rates without first disclosing the total price is likely to harm consumers by increasing the search costs and cognitive costs of finding and choosing hotel accommodations.” And yet they’re still the norm in many destinations.
Recently, there has been a crackdown on resort fees as deceptive advertising, with the first real action taken by Washington, D.C. against Marriott. The state of Nebraska has also filed a lawsuit against Hilton for the same reason.
The best news for consumers would be that the industry abandons these types of fees and that the actual total price is reflected in advertised rates both on the hotel’s website and on third-party booking sites. Earlier in 2019, Britain banned these types of hidden charges and now requires hotels and booking sites to include all mandatory charges, i.e. resort fees, in the listed price. Additionally, Booking.com now charges commission for resort fees in Europe and plans to do so in the U.S. starting in 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that it hopes hotels start providing more transparency to consumers.
Which Destinations Have Resort Fees?
In general, hotels that charge resort fees tend to be concentrated in beach, ski, and entertainment destinations, although some urban areas, like New York City, are starting to charge extra for things like an “amenity fee.” According the American Hotel & Lodging Association, about seven percent of hotels charge a resort fee. But how much does that add up to? Hospitality expert Bjorn Hanson, an adjunct professor at New York University School of Professional Studies, estimated that hotels made over $2.9 billion in revenue generated by these extra fees last year.
The website ResortFeeChecker tracks more than 2,000 hotels with resort fees. According to the site, the average hotel charges over $30 per night in resort fees. You can search by city or specific property to find out if it charges a resort fee.
Note that ResortFeeChecker does not cover a lot of properties in the Caribbean islands or Mexico, but resort fees are typical in these areas as well as in some European coastal and island destinations.
Hotels Without Resort Fees in Hawaii
The average resort fee in Hawaii is $27 per night with more than 100 island resorts charging additional fees (based on a study by Travel Hawaii). Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Hawaii.
Check Prices for Hilton Waikiki Beach in Honolulu
Check Prices for Island Sands Resort in Maalaea
Check Prices for Aston at Poipu Kai in Poipu, HI
Hotels Without Resort Fees in Las Vegas
The average resort fee in Las Vegas is about $28 with more than 122 resorts charging fees (based on information from Las Vegas Jaunt). Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Las Vegas.
Check Prices for Four Queens Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas
Check Prices for Travelodge by Wyndham Las Vegas Center Strip in Las Vegas, NV
Check Prices for Wyndham Desert Blue in Las Vegas
Hotels Without Resort Fees in Florida
There are numerous popular destinations in Florida where resort fees are common. Fees average $24 per night in the Florida Keys, $25 per night in Miami, and $14 per night in Orlando, according to ResortFeeChecker. Miami alone has close to 200 properties with resort fees. Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Florida.
Check Prices for NYAH Key West in Key West
Check Prices for Four Points by Sheraton Miami Beach in Miami Beach
Check Prices for The Hotel of South Beach in Miami Beach
Hotels Without Resort Fees in Arizona
The average resort fee in Phoenix is $24 with more than 70 properties charging an extra fee (based on information from ResortFeeChecker). Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Arizona.
Check Prices for W Scottsdale in Scottsdale
Check Prices for Found:Re Phoenix in Phoenix
Check Prices for Graduate Tempe in Tempe, AZ
Hotels Without Resort Fees in Puerto Rico
The average resort fee in Puerto Rico is $34 per night with more than 28 resorts charging fees in San Juan (based on search results from ResortFeeChecker). Here are two properties where you can avoid resort fees in Puerto Rico.
Check Prices for San Juan Airport Hotel in San Juan
Check Prices for The Wave Hotel Condado in San Juan
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 10 Best Hotel Booking Sites
- 33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel
- The 14 Most Unique Hotels in the World
Editor’s note: Ed Perkins contributed to this article.