Niagara Gazette

Tourism

June 19, 2008

LIFESTYLE: Guests get fed up as hotel fees pile up

It’s the little - and not so little - hotel fees that drive frequent traveler Michael Sommer up a wall.

Sommer says he has been charged hundreds of dollars this year in handling fees on Federal Express packages that he sent or received. He also was charged for a toll-free call from his room at a Marriott hotel to the hotel company’s reservations number, and he was assessed a handling fee, as well as a cleaning charge, when he had a shirt laundered.

“Hotel chains are nickel-and-diming people to death,” says Sommer, a technology consultant in Jacksonville, Fla., who spent more than 230 nights in hotels last year. It’s particularly annoying, he says, that hotels in the same chain have different policies and don’t waive fees for their best customers.

Many business travelers agree with Sommer, and some say that hotels set high prices because they know it’s a hassle for guests to find outside vendors for such services. “Hotels, to a significant degree, hold their guests hostage,” says frequent traveler Peter Roberts, who works in the banking industry and lives year-round in hotels.

Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, disagrees.

“Hotel guests can find out about these charges when making a reservation and choose where they want to stay,” he says. “They can stay at a hotel that provides these services or go to an outside vendor.”

McInerney says hotel fees for incidental services represent a “minuscule” amount of total revenue.

In 2007, revenue from sources other than room rental and food and beverage sales in restaurants, lounges and banquet space was less than 6 percent of total hotel revenue, according to PKF Hospitality Research. The sources were, among others, retail shops, golf, spa, in-room movies, parking, commercial leases, laundry, telephones, mail handling and bag storage.

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