The ugly practice of “resort fees” just got its first official concession. It took the attorney general of Pennsylvania and a couple of years to make it happen, but starting May 15, Marriott International has agreed to begin disclosing any added fees for amenities and services in the total price it displays right up front in search results on both its mobile app and website.
Marriott is the first major hotelier to break from the resort fees shell game, but it dragged its feet getting there. The company had been granted multiple extensions to come into compliance and failed to meet a February deadline.
“What we asked of Marriott, and what the settlement demands, is simple: be upfront with consumers and do not hide fees for hotel stays,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry. “I am thankful that Marriott has agreed to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement without the need for litigation.”
In a statement to ConsumerAffairs, Marriott said it is fully committed to providing customers with clear and transparent pricing.
"We have long been focused on ensuring that any resort/destination fees charged by hotels are separately and clearly stated," the company said. "We have been working diligently over the last several months on the technology required to update our room rate display and further enhance the way these fees are disclosed."
What will it take for others to follow suit?
Several other states are still hard at work trying to bring other chains to change their stance on resort fees, as well. But they’re finding it as slow going as Pennsylvania did.
“Hilton has the technology ready to go to match this. Whether they implement depends on whether other industry players follow,” View From the Wing’s Gary Leff wrote. “No one seems poised to follow on right away and that includes other hotel chains (like IHG and Accor) as well as online travel agencies.”
Leff said that anyone who’s shopping for prices at a Marriott through Expedia’s website is in for a nasty surprise.
“Expedia will continue to show Marriott rates excluding resort fees – they can show inclusive rates, but don’t make those the most prominent. That makes it appear to the consumer as though it’s cheaper to book through Expedia,” he said.
Until everyone agrees, the consumer has to do their own detective work on resort fees
The day will hopefully come when every hotel and every booking site will stop hiding resort fees, but until then, travelers have to do some homework on their own if they don’t want to be surprised at check-out.
Based on ConsumerAffairs’ research, the best way to do that detective work is ResortFeeChecker. The platform does a good job of tracking major hotels in most markets across the country, but it’s worth the extra click to see what exactly a hotel is charging extra for and what options a customer might have.
For example, at Virgin Hotels in Nashville, the site details that guests at this hotel may be required to pay a mandatory service fee of $27.31 per room, nightly. But it also fleshes out what fees are not mandatory, but will be charged if a guest decides to use the service or amenity. In the Virgin Hotels case, that would be a fee for a full breakfast of approximately $15–30 per person, and a covered valet parking fee of $52 nightly.
ResortFeeChecker also makes it clear that its list may not be complete, subject to change, and that the fees do not include tax. Given those gaps, anyone who’s booking a room would be wise to contact the hotel – via email so there’s a track record – to ask for a complete list of charges and fees they’ll be expected to pay.