A web site called Kill Resort Fees started by a Washington, DC, lawyer, aims to do exactly that—with information.
Kill Resort Fees was founded by Lauren Wolfe, an attorney in Washington, DC, and Michigan and a Fulbright Scholar, in February 2016. Wolfe has traveled to 94 countries and the United States is the only country where she was charged resort fees. After one particular trip to Florida, she finally reached her limit and went back home to create the web site to educate the public about this “deceptive and unfair practice.”
Resort fees are back in the news again with Las Vegas hotels including Aria, Bellagio, Vdara, Wynn-Encore, Palazzo, Venetian and the Waldorf-Astoria recently raising them to $45/night. Last month, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Marriott for hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and for charging hidden resort fees to increase profits.
Most people don’t realize the origin of resort fees, which Wolf spells out for viewers on her site. They started when hotels that had a pool or fitness center began charging a small fee, usually $10 a day, to guests who were interested in using them. They were optional, and guests who weren’t interested just paid the advertised rate.
Then, about 10 years ago, the “resort fee” came into being and was included in all rates—whether guests used the facilities or not. With the rise in online bookings and sites like Expedia and Priceline taking a significant cut of sales, hotels now rely on resort fees to make their profit margins.
What is most deceptive, says Wolfe, is that resort fees are intentionally left out of the advertised price of the hotel to make it look like the hotel’s price is less than it actually is. According to Wolf, it’s also wrong that resort fees are not a true exchange of service. “You cannot refuse the services a hotel claims are paid for in a resort fee so the fee does not actually pay for wifi, or whatever else the hotel claims it covers.”
Meeting planners have “huge negotiating power” when it comes to these fees, she says. “Tell them you want one flat rate for your room. A lot of meeting planners have success negotiating out resort fees from their contracts.”