“Resort fees” are extra charges, on top of a room rate, that aren’t optional. In other words they’re part of the price of a room, but the hotel advertises a lower price instead. That’s on face deceptive.
I understand the logic of charging a resort fee in a market where everyone else is doing it. If a hotel charges a $250 room rate and a $30 resort fee, that’s $280 a night. If another hotel charges $270 a night they’re actually $10 cheaper — but appear at first glance to the consumer to be more expensive. Once resort fees are standard in a market, a hotel loses by not charging them.
What’s become especially egregious in recent years is the spread of resort fees to new markets, under different marketing. City hotels aren’t resorts and instead they promote “destination fees.”
Resort Fees are Ok With the FTC
Guidance from the Federal Trade Commission, though, is that resort fees are fine if they aren’t deceptive which means “a hotel prominently discloses the resort fee upfront and includes it in the total price.”
Generally speaking resort fees make it difficult to know at the start of search how much a hotel will cost, and make it difficult to compare prices, but consumers are aware of such fees before they stay.
How Loyalty Programs Handle Resort Fees
Hilton and Hyatt don’t charge guests resort fees when redeeming points. Hyatt waives resort fees for top tier elites on paid stays. Marriott makes guests using their points pay resort fees.
Marriott’s terms though do say that if a hotel includes internet access in their resort fee then they must offer program members a different benefit.