Welcome to your five star hotel in London, where you’re lucky to have a room to accompany your reservation, because we cancel some without assisting in rebooking guests, and once you do arrive, the pool is more than $35 per person.
This may sound like a sketch from Comedy Central, or Saturday Night Live, but the Intercontinental O2 is quickly becoming the most shameless hotel in London, and in a bid to hold onto the title, its latest trick is a masterpiece.
Want to enjoy the beautiful but desolate pool? It’s $35 per adult, and kids aren’t free.
There’s so much to unpack, so many valid questions to answer and so many eyebrows to raise, so here’s the latest with this utterly bizarre take on “hospitality”, parentheses being the operating principle.
Intercontinental O2 Adds Pool Fee
As spotted by our friends Head For Points, the Intercontinental O2, theoretically a five star London hotel — I’d say really, four at best — has added a new pool charge. No, it’s not for Londoners hoping to stop by for a dip, but for actual hotel guests.
Update: The Intercontinental O2 has backed down and will not charge for pool access, after a wave of negative media backlash.
Yes, even if you’re paying the fairly high nightly rates for a non-centrally located hotel, you’ll need to pay $35 to use the pool and also may need to book in advance. Precisely, it costs £30 per adult and £15 per kid under 18 to use the pool. It was previously free.
It’s worth noting that all Covid-19 restrictions in the UK have been dropped, so it’s not like this solves a capacity issue or brings some exciting new service. It’s just yet another shameless hotel offering shameless fees because they feel the world owes them one.
Even guests who are already choosing their hotel and paying for the experience.
This Isn’t New For This Hotel
This hotel is owned and operated by the Arora Group, which doesn’t appear too fond of customers, but very fond of any underhanded attempt to extract more money, even when it means breaking loyalty program policy.
During the pandemic, the hotel cancelled hundreds of reservations on short notice and refused to honor the reservations or rates for a later date, or to rebook elsewhere — as per IHG rebooking policy for hotel initiated cancellations.
The move left guests stranded, many of whom had come from far and wide. So yes, in one way, the new pool fee can be seen as a positive, because if you at least get offered the chance to pay it, it means the hotel hasn’t been able to resell your room at a better rate, and cancel your reservation.
Why Doesn’t IHG Do Something?
People forget that hotels participating in major loyalty programs are very rarely owned by the big company with their name on the marquee. They just sign agreements to use the major brand name and hotel standards to attract guests.
Most “major chain” hotels are owned by investment groups, real estate firms, or just lone individual owners.
In a weak market, hotel owners desperately lean on the IHG’s, Hilton’s, Accor, Marriotts flying the flag for the hotel to fill rooms, but in unprecedented times like the demand of today, rooms fill up anyway.
They feel less benefit from program participation during these times, so they like to play hardball with the “free” stuff they need to give away to members or elite guests.
These marketing groups like IHG can’t afford to piss off a hotel ownership group and lose the contract to operate and market the property, so they stay far more hands off — even when hotels are being naughty and breaking program rules — than they should, or maybe might like to.
Hotels Race To The Bottom
A hotel in the US recently added a “sustainability fee”, which sounds admirable, right?
Only, the fee is to restore the old building to save the hotel owners operating energy costs. This isn’t about saving the planet, but saving the hotel owners expense sheet, by sneakily charging guests extra to accomplish the goal.
All around the world, resort fees continue to creep up not just in resorts, but major cities, and a slew of deceptive “post price” extras keep popping up too. And no, they “can’t” be waived, even if you don’t use the facilities or wifi.
But even with all the shame in a hotel industry which seems determined to drive everyone into Airbnb’s, where service standards and amenities are actually improving, few things take the cake quite like the new £30 ($37) per person fee to use the pool of the hotel you’re staying in.
GSTP has lots of great tips for visiting London, but the guide may need an update with some things best to avoid too.