What Are Destination Fees and Why Are They So Egregious?

Hotels are charging extra for services that should be included in your daily room rate

The Marriott hotel in downtown Orlando, Florida is seen on July 10, 2019, the day after the hotel chain was sued by the District of Columbia Attorney General for deceptive resort fees.
The Marriott hotel in downtown Orlando, FL; in 2019, the hotel chain was sued by the District of Columbia Attorney General for deceptive resort fees.
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor has a $25 per night “destination fee” that seems to cover a lot of things your regular hotel rate should already cover, from daily water bottles to a morning coffee. There are also a few amenities and local discounts that don’t add up to too much, particularly given that you can’t get out of the fee unless you’re a “Courtesy Card holder” or a “Globalist” (that’s a membership tier, not the political science term).

Most egregiously, that fee includes “panoramic views of Boston with photo opportunity,” which means … well, nothing. As the travel site View From the Wing suggests, you’re basically paying for the right to look out the window and take a picture. Which isn’t technically forbidden otherwise.

Since more hotels are tacking on destination fees, it might be a good time to explain what you’re dealing with. Essentially, this is a hotel version of a resort fee. As Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time explains, tacking on this extra fee means “on many booking channels the initial rate will appear lower this way when booking.” As well, the hotel doesn’t have to pay travel agents a commission on these fees, and there are potentially even tax benefits.

Unfortunately, as View From the Wing notes, the Federal Trade Commission is fine with the practice as long as the fees are disclosed prior to confirming the stay.

Getting out of these fees (which can bring in billions of additional revenue) isn’t pleasant, although sometimes just generally complaining about them can help. However, Sarah Firshein at the New York Times suggests a few more radical ideas, such as either booking hotel rooms with points (which negates fees at some hotel chains) or, no joke, filing a complaint online with the state attorney general. Admittedly, a few attorneys general are suing various hotel chains over these fees, claiming they’re deceptive and misleading. There’s also a bill in Congress (H.R. 4489) that “requires hotels, and other places of short-term lodging, to include all required fees in the advertised rate,” but given it was introduced in 2019, we’re not sure of its current status.

For now? We’d suggest simply noting the most ridiculous charges — be it for a view or for a service that the hotel offers that may not apply to you — and politely asking them to take it off. Or try to find a place that isn’t nickel-and-diming you.


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