Welcome to the United States of America, a country for which I have more respect than many people, but still a country where some aspects are clearly dragging behind most civilized nations. Before I get onto travel, is there any other first world country with such weak product labelling laws that a can of beer can be sold with no mention anywhere of the alcoholic content. And fortunately there are not too many other places I’ve been to where a VAT or GST is not included in the advertised price. So the natural extention of such weak labelling laws and weak consumer protection agencies, is that such ridiculous practices continue to expand, limited only by the imagination of unscrupulous sellers.
And this leads straight into the topic that has got me hot under the collar today: Hotel Resort Fees.
I recalled that I’d seen something from Tim Hughes on the topic before where he wrote ”Outrageous that a compulsory charge would not form part of the room rate.” But then I saw this great piece from Christopher Elliot which contains a quote that surely must receive the putting the nail in your own coffin award:
“If we included this in the price of our room, it could put us at a competitive disadvantage,” said Brian Young, vice president for resort operations at Rosewood Hotels and Resorts
Only the other day I was sounding hopeful that the airline industry was beginning to realize that the future of ancillary revenue lay not in further alienation of customers, but in working harder to get a slice of the revenue that their passengers were already spending elsewhere. But after spending a week in the United States, I can only say that whilst airlines might be waking up to this fact, certain hotels chains are still well off the pace.
I was in Tucson earlier this week; prior to arriving I was halfway through booking the Westin La Paloma when I saw the fine print on their website telling me that the quoted price did not include a compulsory resort fee of $15 per room per day. One sale lost for The Westin, and I ended up staying elsewhere. But that is hardly enough to justify a post, so hopefully this is. This morning I checked into the Hyatt Regency at Huntington Beach, just south of Los Angeles. I’m actually here for what is being billed as the Mega Event – it is a combined Frequent Flyer and Ancillary Revenue conference. And here is where the irony really starts, as I’m sure the Hyatt think a compulsory resort fee is a clever form of ancillary revenue, but even the masters of ancillary revenue, Ryanair, know how to push the limits without stepping over them – well most of the time anyway.
I was actually planning to write a post praising the Hyatt today, as their strategy with pre-arrival email marketing is very close to the approach I have been pushing for close to a year. This is true ancillary revenue innovation put into practice, and I would have been so much happier today going into detail about these two images. Firstly the email I received about a week before arriving, and secondly the webpage I clicked through to from the email… but alas, it obviously wasn’t meant to be.
Now contrast those two images which really represent something very well done by Hyatt, with the text below I took today from the booking process on their website. Forget the fact that the $177 they are quoting me to arrive at the hotel today via their own direct channel is cheaper that what I paid when booking at the rate the conference organizers had negotiated for delegates, and instead focus on the following:
354.00 USD Total Per Room
Looking at that last line reminds me of the user unfriendly fare notes most readers would be familiar with if you’ve been around airlines long enough; hardly the sort of text I’d expect to see on a consumer focussed website. But the entire booking flow is misleading, as on the fare page you’ll see “Total Price Per Room:” but then on the subsequent payment page the additional resort fee is mentioned (if you really look hard enough). In their defence they do actually show a total that includes the resort fee on the side of the payment page, but unless you are searching for it, you’ll probably miss it; especially given that the previous page told you the rate was the “Total Price”
I’m in two minds as to whether I should just swallow this dubious resort fee, or whether I should make a stand on principle and refuse to pay it when I check out. If any other conference delegates reading this have a strong opinion on the matter, I would be very interested to hear from you.