In the past year, the number of hotels charging fees has grown by 14 percent, according to Resortfeechecker.com, a site that tracks resort fees.
Meeting planners are not happy about it. “Hotels are going the way of the airlines and meeting planners are grumbling,” says Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM, of New Jersey-based Strategic Meetings & Events. “Hotel resort fees are an ongoing problem and I think it’s short sighted of hotels. We have to be partners and look at the big picture. But it’s a sellers market so there’s little we can do about it.”
Lamagna believes industry associations should take the lead on getting hotels to do away with fees for groups but doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. “Industry associations get a significant amount of money from hotel suppliers in the form of sponsorships at meetings and events so that’s why it won’t change,” she said. “No one is standing up for us.”
Resortfeetracker.com also tracks fees by city naming those that charge the most, with Miami leading the pack, followed by Orlando, Las Vegas and New York.
Shawna Suckow, CMP and founder of SPIN Planners, says she isn’t surprised about Las Vegas because while she’s paying a $51 rate at The LINQ hotel during IMEX, the resort fee is an additional $35.
“Hotel resort fees are the greatest trick for revenue managers. It’s a sideways tactic to rack up room rates and make the rates more attractive to groups.”
“Hotel resort fees are the greatest trick for revenue managers. It’s a sideways tactic to rack up room rates and make the rates more attractive to groups. Unfortunately it’s the salespeople that have to defend them,” says Suckow. “Seasoned planners do try and negotiate these rates, but often we just begrudgingly pay these fees because it’s a sellers market and we have no choice.”
Lamagna, who says she’s had hotels charge a fee for a king bed rather than two double beds, also tries to negotiate fees, especially if she knows her group is not going to be using the health club or spa, for example. “I come to the negotiating table with facts. Sometimes I have to show the hotel the agenda so I can show my attendees have little time to use the facilities. I’ll even offer to pay $25 a person if my attendees do use the fitness center because I’m happy to pay for the things we use.”
While Orlando made the number two spot of the cities with the highest fees (an average of $14 a night) a few Orlando hotels currently do not have fees like the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World and all of the nine Rosen Hotels and Resorts.
“We’ve never charged a resort fee at any of our nine hotels,” says Leslie Menichini, VP of sales and marketing. “As an independent hotel company, we’re all about letting the guest make their own decisions to craft the business trip they desire.”
Menichini says it gives Rosen the edge when planners are looking to book a property.
“When a planner is comparing budgets with other hotels, this is a significant savings when you multiply a resort fee by the number of guest room nights the planner has booked by the number of nights that guests stay. It can add up to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the group. This also provides immediate credibility to a planner. They are instilled with a confidence and trust that we are not going to unnecessarily charge them.”