Can The US Congress Bring Transparency To Resort Fees?




You have to give digital and mobile technology some credit — over time, the complexities of travel pricing and costs (along with other parts of the process) have become at least a bit more transparent, and much more consumer-friendly. But there remains at least one big area of frustration for pretty much any traveler, or anyone who pays those costs for business trips: resort fees.

Now the U.S. Congress is getting in this game, with bipartisan support forming behind a bill designed to take the frustration and mystery out of resort fees.

Filed by Republican and Democratic representatives, the Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019 (HR4489) “would ensure that consumers are shown the full pre-tax price of a hotel room while searching and comparing lodging options for their next trip,” according to a statement from its sponsors. Such a law “would prohibit hotels and other places of short-term lodging from advertising a rate for a room that does not include all required fees other than taxes and fees imposed by a government. The FTC, along with Attorneys General from across the country, would have the ability to enforce this provision through the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

Big Issue

Resorts fees stand a controversial issue in all of travel, including the online parts of the industry. Earlier this year, in fact, Booking.com sent ripples of surprise throughout the travel vertical with the announcement that it would begin collecting commissions on the fees resorts charge to customers who book through the platform.

Those fees will be applied to the much-maligned daily resort charges that consumers pay — usually at higher end hotels or those located in particularly popular tourist destinations — as well as on things like Wi-Fi upcharges or parking fees that hotels in recent years have been known to layer in on top of the base rate. The new commission charges have reportedly begun rolling out this month.

Hotel fees are a contentious issue in the travel industry — both between consumers and hotel chains, and between hotel chains and digital travel agencies like Booking.com or the entire family of Expedia-owned properties. Those charges are not factored into a room’s base rate when a customer searches, because they are not included in the base rate consumers are quoted — and in some locations they can be quite a steep upcharge. According to recent reports in Skift, for example, some Las Vegas destinations, particularly on the strip, customers will often end up paying daily resort fees that are higher than the base price for the room itself.

More Pricing Moves

As the politics over resort fees start to play out, hotels keep seeking further advantages with digitally- and mobile-focused consumers — and to gain an edge when it comes to pricing and costs.

A recent example comes from Hopper, which announced that more than 270,000 hotels in over 200 countries and territories across 1,600 major cities are now available to book directly through the app.

According to Hopper, booking a hotel at the optimal time can save travelers on average $61/night off of peak prices. While most consumers miss out deals because they only check prices too close to their trip date, users can now “watch a hotel” and Hopper will forecast and track the prices of the hotels chosen.

In addition, the app will continuously monitor both public rates, as well as private rates the user might be eligible for. Hopper will send out a push notification the instant prices drop or if a private deal is secured. The hotel can then be booked directly in the app with a few swipes and a tap.

The launch comes one year after the company rolled out the first-ever price prediction feature for hotels in one beta market — New York — and has since collected millions of historic hotel prices along with real-time pricing and demand data to accurately forecast prices for hotels worldwide.

No matter what happens with resort fees in Congress, you can expect more moves on pricing and transparency on hotels via digital and mobile tech.



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