It’s almost springtime, and in the nation’s biggest tourist destinations, resort fees are sprouting like tulips.
In Las Vegas, March will bring increases in fees in at least 10 resorts, including Caesars, Nobu, and the Flamingo. Caesars, for example, will raise its fee 11 percent, from $35 to $39 per night.
In Orlando, ResortfeeChecker.com lists 227 hotels that charge resort fees. Notably, though, properties owned by Disney, Loews (which co-owns the onsite hotels at Universal Orlando), and Virgin Hotels do not charge resort fees.
In Hawaii, fees are up at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort; and will rise April 1 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort and the Courtyard by Marriott Kaua'i at Coconut Beach, according to Apple Vacations.
Travelers see these charges as an unpleasant surprise at resort destinations, often tacking $100 onto the bill at the last minute. They confuse searches for the lowest price, as they are not included in the list price. Wyndham and Marriott are both currently involved in litigation by consumers over their resort fees.
And for travel agents, the fees are akin to the non-commissionable fees charged by cruise ships. In addition to annoying customers and complicating payments, they also are viewed as a way for suppliers to sidestep commissions on hundreds of dollars on many bookings.
“There’s no justification for a resort fee. If it takes that much money to run your resort, raise the room charges and make those commissionable to the agents,” says Diane McIntyre Mason, owner of the Cruise & Travel Planner in Saint Peters, Missouri. “It’s just a way for these resorts to make more money and cut the agent out of the commission.”
Negotiate fees for clients
So, what’s an agent to do? Spell out the details for you clients so they know what they will be charged and when, travel professionals suggest. Some say it’s worth the effort to try to negotiate them away for your clients.
“You are right, more and more resorts are adding fees and some of them are quite large,” travel agent Shawn van der Putten at Exquisite Travel Group in Greater Seattle, Washington, told TMR. “I have to be very careful to point out fees in quotes so clients do not get a nasty surprise.”
Eleanor Flagler Hardy, president of the Society of International Railway Travelers, said her agency is “careful to spell out in writing all fees and taxes clients will pay,” and they do not seem to mind as long as they are prepared.
But Andrew Dixon, Corporate Travel Counselor at Travel Placement Services in Los Angeles, noted that the fees “can be negotiable for groups, corporate clients, high rollers, celebrities, etc.”
“In my experience, it is definitely possible to negotiate the fees away for a group, though not for FITs,” agreed Stacey Robertson Ray at Groupit Travel in North Carolina, who “was able to work with a resort on the West Coast of Florida and negotiated a net rate, waiver of the resort fees, and then added my markup.”
Spell out the details
Often, though, that’s not possible. In that case, Diane Bean, Luxury Travel Advisor at Off on Vacation in Bangor, Maine, and Jennifer Belanger of Jennifer Hand Travel Pro in Alabaster, Alabama, say they carefully explain the details to clients.
“When there is a perceived value, I can make my clients feel like they are not being nickel-and-dimed. Outrigger Hotels and Resorts has a $30 per day in Waikiki that I had to explain today to clients who will be staying there later this month. They were fine with it. They actually get quite a bit for it,” said Bean.
Hand said that most of her clients to Hawaii do question the high fees. She “highlights what it covers and lets the client decide its value. I’ve got my list of properties that don’t have fees ready.”
“What I've found most frustrating in planning Hawaii trips was to inform my client that they had to pay these fees when they arrived at the resort, as I was unable to include them in my package price,” said Laurie Ann Delaney Bahna, an independent travel professional with Cruises Inc.
But Dillon Guyer of Guyer Travel International in Rochester, New Hampshire, takes a different tack. While he “personally thinks it’s a tacky way for the hotel to make some extra money,” he has never fought the resort fee; he just passes it along to most customers. “But when it comes to my packaged rates, where I make a $500-$1,000 service charge, I just take care of the fees myself,” he said.