Streets of New York

I grew up in New York and despite a few beautiful pools, there’s just nothing about the city which screams “resort”. It’s a bustling city, with one rather large playground in the middle of it, with no palm trees to be found anywhere, or golf courses either. To charge resort fees in New York is like a hotel charging for water in the desert.

For those that haven’t already had the shock and awe of checking into a hotel, only to be told that they’ll need to fork over an additional $25-$50 dollars per day in “resort fees”, it’s important to fully understand what exactly they are.

Resort fees are similar to the “basic economy” game airlines are playing, but unlike airlines, you have no choice in whether or not you pay for them. That was annoying but acceptable in places like Palm Springs where hotels offer sprawling outdoor facilities, but in major cities? I think not.

Hawaii

A passenger without a checked bag now who is willing to take whatever seat they are given now has the choice not to pay a premium for these features when purchasing an airline ticket.

A hotel guest now has no choice but to pay for things which were once just a part of the experience, regardless of whether they’ll use any of the listed facilities, or not. The gym, the pool, the internet and virtually every other service which was always just been a part of the experience is now considered fee worthy. Rather than completely take the piss and call these charges “resort fees” some hotels now call them “urban destination fees”.

And no, unless you plan to have a lengthy intellectual debate with a check in clerk or hotel manager,  you are highly unlikely to wiggle or talk your way out of paying them. That doesn’t mean you should not try.

But someone is doing something about it, right?

In yet another shocking move where the US Government fails to protect its consumers, hotels aren’t actually required to disclose that you’ll be paying a mandatory resort fee, which average at least $25, until the final booking phase. If hotel lobbyists continue to have their way, that won’t be changing either.

With airlines, that “extra fee” disclosure is now perfectly clear from the first click, whereas hotels are only required to disclose these horrendous resort fees on the final payment stage, at which point many travellers are focused on finding their wallet, and miss the disclosure entirely.

It’s comical to take a $500 a night hotel such as the five star Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, or a the two star Hotel Pennsylvania and add a resort fee to either total sum. On opposite ends of the travel spectrum, it’s an equally insulting gesture.

Sorry, but is my $500 per night not enough to cover bottled water and lobby coffee?

When you counter this with regulations In the European Economic Union, where hotels are required to disclose all charges up front, including final taxes it feels worse. Australia follows a similar principle, where it’s illegal to charge anything as mandatory that wasn’t included in an initial figure.

So where are hotel resort fees happening?

In New York, the city went from 15 hotels with resort fees in 2016 to more than 95 in 2019. Resort fees are most prevalent in New York City, Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando, Honolulu, Myrtle Beach and San Diego but sadly, they’re rearing their ugly head in more cities by the day.

While many travellers will always stay chain loyal and insist upon a buffet breakfast whenever they leave home, the move is pushing many people away from hotels in general.

It’s clear from recent moves such as Marriott investing in home sharing options that Airbnb, SweetInn and other services are beginning to make a dent with younger travellers, so why hotels would choose to charge yet another fee at this time is beyond logic. For many customers, it’s yet another nail in the loyalty coffin pushing business towards the sharing economy.

Looking at an upcoming trip to New York, I was uneasy about hotel rates for the extremely popular week anyway, but the $45 per day resort fees officially pushed me out the door, and into the lap of the very brands hotel chains are competing with. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, I was perfectly prepared to pay $375 per night for a hotel, but once they said they’ll need $45 per night in resort fees, I bailed.

It’s fair to say that no one on earth loves resort fees, except the hotels that charge them and the brands that benefit as guests like myself flee traditional hotels in droves.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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13 Comments

  1. Lol why go to New York unless you absolutely have to. So many better cities in the world that are cheaper and dont restrict apps like air bnb. Heck if you are single. Just utilize that passport feature in grindr or tinder before you arrive in NYC. At the time for me that was a $36 well spent. For the premium version of those apps. Less then the resort fees ha ha.

  2. It’s an unfortunate trend as short term rentals like AirBnB are having a detrimental impact on local neighborhoods across the globe. I see in my own neighborhood that many culture bearers and long-time residents have been priced out and replaced by the generic drumbeat of tourists. Short term renting is making it impossible to actually live in unique or ideal places – you can only visit for days at a time. I strongly suggest anyone looking at AirBnB and other STRs to use listings in which an owner is present. It increases the possibility that the neighborhood might actually welcome you rather than wishing you’d leave.

  3. Please vote with your wallet and shun hotels with resort fees.

    AirBnBs too have been sneaky about it and now add cleaning fees and other fees. I don’t understand why cleaning fees can’t be part of the rate!

  4. US Government works on the principle of ‘highest bidder’ — both parties people and not just the GOP.

  5. I have not been back to Nevada since resort fees started there around 2011. Memorable viewing the. Never ending spectacle of seeing another suit clad gentleman scream at the Tahoe resort fee tacked on his bill as he checked out back then. …..That cured me of Las vegas, tahoe and Reno since then. Unless I find a hotel there without one……. Law should require ALL charges enunciated to you when. You book your.. Hotel etc..This also why I only go on day trips to nearby Boston and Nyc. Now. ..

  6. Not sure why they tell airlines to put all charges up front but not hotels, baffles me…

  7. Yup, this is simply dishonest pricing – I find the US habit of showing prices excluding the obligatory Sales tax equally frustrating – if I have to pay it, honesty means you should tell me the real price upfront.

    1. Exactly. But the consumers doesn’t have rights in the states, where corporations are people. The only thing those “people” understand is an abrupt cut of the money stream. Unbelievably enough, I’d rather haggle the price with a Vietnamese or Arab peddler, than conduct any business with an US American, because you cane best be sure that the “final” price you hear from the American is not included taxes and fees.

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