The lodging industry is highly imaginative when it comes to finding ways to generate revenue. In 2013, guests forked over an estimated $2.1 billion in fees and surcharges, almost double the amount in 2000.
Last year's record take reflect higher room-occupancy rates—more heads in beds—and more varied and steeper fees. Before 1997, most of these fees were unheard of. While consumers understandably despise the fees, the industry embraces them because they are extraordinarily profitable.
According to Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, the most prevalent extras include: resort fees, early-departure fees, reservation-cancellation fees, Internet fees, telephone-call surcharges, business-center fees (for example, charges for receiving faxes, and sending or receiving overnight packages), room-service delivery surcharges, minibar restocking fees, charges for in-room safes, and mandatory tips added to your bill. For groups, there have been increased charges for bartenders and other staff at events, special charges for setup and breakdown of meeting rooms, and baggage-holding fees for guests leaving luggage with bell staff after checking out but before departing the premises.
Some resorts, suburban hotels, and hotels near airports are also starting to charge for open, unattended (nonvalet) parking. Parking has usually been free outside of hotels in urban areas.
One fee that seems to have largely disappeared, Hanson says, is the energy surcharge, typically imposed when fuel and utility rates are high.
When it comes to nickel-and-diming guests, fancy hotels are the worst offenders, billing for amenities that many budget hotels offer free, such as wireless, high-speed Internet.
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Here's a rundown of common extras and what you can expect to pay at hotels that impose them.
Hotels don't rely on a magic formula to determine how much to charge for various services, Hanson says. Instead, it often comes down to what the market will bear. "The amounts are constantly changing to see what people will accept," he said. "If you charge a guest $1 and there aren't many people complaining, let's try raising it to $2. It's often a matter of trial and error and seeing what sticks."