Disney Considers Resort Fees

by Cheryl Rosen
Disney Considers Resort Fees

Travel agents hate them. Consumers hate them. Yet they keep spreading—and now it seems that Disney may be getting into the resort fees business.

Disney has sent out a survey asking visitors what they think of the idea of a $15-per-night resort fee that would cover Disney Magical Express, MagicBands, priority Fast Pass resort planning, Extra Magic Hours, parking and Wi-Fi—things that already are included in the room rate at Disney resorts.

Disney said in a prepared statement that it "constantly seeks guest feedback on a variety of topics to evaluate our services and offerings." It did a similar survey before raising tickets prices in the parks last month.

If it goes through with the plan, Disney will join a growing—and unpopular—trend in the industry. Travelers hate the fees, which do not show up in online price checks as part of the price; travel agents hate them more, as they annoy customers and also do not earn commissions.

It’s not the commission that matters most, though, said Kate Murphy, president of Wings Travel Group in Blue Pell, PA. Bad as resort fees are in a destination like Vegas, they’re worse in Disney.

“It’s not good; it’s hurting people, especially at a place like Disney,” she said. “People save for years to take their family to Disney; people budget for it for years. But a resort fee makes it very hard to budget.”

As a grandma of 12, Kate started a Murphy family tradition to take each grandchild on a three-night Disney cruise and then spend three nights in the park the year each child turns seven. Just last week, when her “fabulous” Disney account manager advised that Disney was streaming Fantasmic, her six-year-old grandson watched. When it was over he turned to his parents and immediately asked, “How many days until I’m seven?”

An additional $15 a night will not stop her from taking the grandkids, of course. But for those not expecting it and staying multiple nights in multiple rooms, it will be a sticker shock.

“If they want to raise their prices, raise the prices,” she said. “But be open about it.”

Fees come under the gun
Indeed, consumers are getting fed up. A coalition of consumer advocates, including the National Consumers League and Travelers United, last month took the beef against them to state lawmakers, with a push to attorney generals to outlaw them and protect travelers.

Resort fees are a bait-and-switch that deceives customers and puts honest hoteliers at a disadvantage, they said.

The average resort fee is $17.30 per night, up about 5% from last year, according to ResortFeeChecker.com. Where 90 hotels charged a resort fee of $30 or more last year, the number is up by 60%, to 142 hotels. In all, U.S. travelers paid an estimated $2.7 billion in resort fees last year.

Some hotels, too, are taking the high road. Disney’s neighbor, the new Four Seasons Orlando, is bucking the trend, holding fast to a room rate that includes everything, said spokesperson Dana Berry. So does its sister property, the Four Seasons Maui, which prominently promotes the distinction on its website as a way to differentiate itself from competitors in the highly-feed Hawaii market.

“While some Four Seasons properties do offer resort fees, the majority do not,” Berry said. “Most feel the Four Seasons is about added value; we offer complimentary fitness classes and children’s programs; we believe that adding value will go farther to building guest loyalty.”

But around the nation, the fees continue to spread. Last week Caesars Entertainment raised its bet on resort fees, increasing them to 10%, from $29 to $32 per room per day at Caesars Palace, Nobu, the Cromwell, Paris, and Planet Hollywood—plus 12% tax. The fee will remain at $29 at the company's other Las Vegas hotels.

“The fact that they don’t pay commission on the fees doesn’t even bother me; I am immune to hotels screwing the travel agent,” said Murphy at Wings Travel Group. “But half the time I’m at a meeting and I don’t even use the resort, and I highly resent having to pay it.”

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