Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission that helps contribute to the running of the site – I’m very grateful to anyone who uses these links but their use is entirely optional. The compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site and does not impact reviews that are published. For more details please see the advertising disclosure found at the bottom of every page.
Resort fees, destination fees, facility fees (call them what you will) have been around for some time but it’s only in the past year or two that they’ve really started getting out of hand.
They started out as fees charged by actual resort properties (hence the original name of ‘resort fee’) to cover spurious extras like sun loungers, snorkel set rentals and in-room water, but have now spread to properties of all types and are nothing more than a new way to rip off guests.
Resort fees don’t usually offer guests anything they actually want or need (you just have to look at what the Andaz West Hollywood and the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown claim their fees cover to see that) and this is because they have absolutely nothing to do with improving a guest’s stay.
Resort fees have been introduced to allow properties to (a) charge more for a room without it affecting their ranking in a comparison site’s search results and (b) to avoid paying commission on the full cost of a stay to the comparison sites.
This all happens because most comparison sites do not automatically include resort fees in the nightly room rate when displaying the various options to their customers and because most comparison sites don’t charge a commission on any extra fees properties may charge (although some sites are now clamping down on this).
As I said, these fees are nothing short of a huge ripoff.
Still, while there are various suggestions for how to get around paying these abhorrent charges (like instigating a credit card chargeback or simply refusing to pay them) none of these guarantee success and some are pretty sketchy so most of us are stuck paying the fees or avoiding properties that charge them.
There are however times when a property will charge a guest a resort fee (or a resort fee equivalent) when it has absolutely no legal right to do so, and this is definitely something people should be aware of.
A hotel/resort cannot change the price of a guest’s stay after a booking has been made (that’s against the law) so any property that introduces a resort fee (or its equivalent) cannot add that fee to bookings made before the fee was introduced….but some properties will do exactly that.
Here’s a recent experience I had.
Ahead of a recent stay at Marriott’s Residence Inn Miami Beach I noticed that the property was adding an “amenity fee” to all bookings.
Although I was pretty sure I would have noticed had there been an amenity fee to pay when I booked (and as I wouldn’t have booked the property had I seen the amenity fee) I pulled up the screenshot I had taken of my booking at the time I made it.
Sure enough, there was no mention of an amenity fee anywhere.
I then checked my emails to see when Marriott had sent me my reservation confirmation and saw that I had made the booking in December last year.
At this point I already had a very good idea what had happened (the amenity fee had been introduced at some point after I made my booking) but I wanted to make sure I couldn’t be stung for the fee….so I sent a tweet to the Marriott Bonvoy team…
…who replied pretty quickly:
I then emailed Doris Diaz (who turned out to be the General Manager of the Residence Inn).
The reply was swift…but didn’t actually address my question.
So I sent a follow-up email…
…and received the reply I was looking for:
I had made my booking in December 2018 and the Residence Inn Miami Beach South Beach had introduced its amenity fee 3 months later.
I knew I wasn’t liable for the fee (despite the fact it was now appearing on my reservation) and I could have sent another email asking to have the fee removed from my account…but I wanted to see how this would play out.
Fast forward to the end of my stay when I chose to check out at the front desk rather than via the Marriott app.
The friendly front desk employee looked up my room account when I asked to check out, confirmed that my stay had been paid for with points, and confirmed that I was good to go.
There was no verbal mention of any additional fees and, as I had specifically requested a paper copy of my invoice, I was handed my bill……complete with amenity fees added.
I wasn’t surprised.
I immediately pointed out that my reservation had been made before the fees had been introduced and, to the credit of the staff member, they were removed from my account immediately. No questions asked.
But the fact that I got the fees taken off my account without any trouble isn’t the point here.
The fact is that a property added fees to my bill that I should not have been charged and it was only because I was aware of what was going on (and because I had done my homework before I checked in) that I knew to contest them.
How many other guests would think to ask if the fees had been introduced after they had booked their rooms? I suspect the answer is not very many.
Most guests would probably be unhappy about the charges but would also probably assume that they were a legitimate part of their booking so they’d pay them and move on.
By the way, for any over zealous lawyers reading this allow me to make something very clear.
I’m not suggesting that this (or any other) property is deliberately setting out to charge guests fees that the law says they do not have to pay – what I’m saying is that it looks like at least some reservations systems cannot tell the difference between those who should be paying the fees and those who should not.
That’s an issue.
My suggestion to anyone who sees resort/amenity/destination fees being added to their bill (and who doesn’t remember seeing those fees mentioned when they booked) is simple: Get in touch with the property in question and find out when the fee was introduced.
If you can’t get a straight answer out of the property, I would contest the fees at check-out and, if you discover that the fees were introduced after you made your booking, make sure you ask to have them removed from your bill.
None of this is going to solve the basic issue that a lot of people are almost certainly currently paying resort fees they don’t actually have to pay….but at least it may help out anyone reading this post.