In what could be a game-changer, hotel booking site Booking.com is fighting back against hotels that charge customers resort fees on top of its regular rate.
Booking.com said it will start charging hotels a commission on the resort fees they in turn charge customers. The site has already begun informing its U.S. hotel clients, and the new policy will roll out in June by regions.
The question is, how long will the policy last?
Like other online travel agencies, Booking.com facilitates the renting of hotel rooms at a discount since the rooms are considered “unused,” or haven’t been rented yet by the hotel. But Booking.com believes the resort fees drive up the price of its advertised rate, making it something of a disingenuous practice.
Hotel resort fees are a relatively new phenomenon in the last decade or so. Once hotels saw how well the airlines were doing with ancillary charges – baggage fees, seat change fees, etc. – they jumped in with the resort fees. Ostensibly, the fees were for use of such amenities as the hotel pool and cabanas, the spa, gym and more. But some hotels began tacking on the fee even though they had little more to offer than WiFi.
At best, these fees are not advertised and are added to the bill at checkout – whether you used the pool or the WiFi or not. At worst, they can be downright outrageous.
Case in point: Earlier this month a Canadian man on a business trip to Minnesota booked a hotel room at a Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Expedia’s Canada site. The rate was $207 Canadian. He was charged just over $6,100 in fees before the matter was finally resolved.
So far, no other online travel agencies have followed Booking.com’s lead, but the hope is that they will – and force hotels to end the practice. But industry observers say it could do the opposite, with hotels instead retaliating against Booking.com by offering competitors such as Expedia, Trivago, Kayak and Priceline less expensive rates while still charging resort fees.
In a statement to MarketWatch, a spokeswoman for the American Hotel and Lodging Association said that hotels charging resort fees follow guidance from the Federal Trade Commission and will provide information on the fee and included amenities when a consumer books directly with them.
“It’s important to note that third-party travel websites may not provide the same transparency and cost break-outs as booking directly with the hotel,” the spokeswoman said. “That’s one reason we encourage consumers to book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent.”
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