Keep Your Hand on Your Wallet: Minimizing Resort Fees

By Lain Ehmann

What’s worse than forking out $250 per night for a lackluster room in a lackluster hotel? Paying $250 per night and then getting hit with another $15-per-day fee at checkout for a newspaper you didn’t read, coffee you didn’t drink and a gym you didn’t use. As many meeting planners know, it’s becoming de rigueur for hotels and resorts to add resort fees of $15 to $20 per day for things such as access to a safety deposit box, a newspaper delivered to your door and a coffee maker in your room – not to mention mandatory gratuities for banquet wait staff, bartenders and housekeeping.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, add-on fees will bring an additional $1.4 billion to hotel coffers this year – money straight out of your budget. Basically, say experts, resort fees are added revenue streams for the properties and have little to do with the amount or quality of service you receive. “There are all kinds of fees a few hotels are putting out to see what they can get away with,” says David McCann, editor-in-chief of MeetingNews, in a recent editorial. So what’s a meeting planner to do?

  • Ask upfront about any fees that will be tacked onto your bill, whether they be resort fees or food-and-beverage administration fees. According to McCann, “Hotels should tell you directly about any fees. They shouldn’t bury them in fine print. They shouldn’t imply they’re not mandatory when in fact they are. They really should add up all the required rates and fees for you and give you a total.”
  • Choose properties that don’t have such fees. Hilton, Marriott and Starwood, for example, have policies against mandatory resort fees.
  • Ask for the fees to be waived. In some cases venues will comply, particularly if you’re offering them a lucrative package or if you’re a great customer. In other cases you’ll be stuck, but at least you asked.
  • Make sure you’re not paying twice. If you’re being charged a daily gratuity for maid service or valet parking, make sure your attendees know the tips have already been paid.
  • Look for other areas of savings. Negotiate lower room rates or extras such as turndown service, free parking, free local phone calls or complimentary Internet access. Look at the bottom line rather than at individual charges. Perks such as these could outweigh the amount you’re paying in fees.