Have you ever spent a night at a hotel, on business, and been charged a “resort fee” even though you never had time to take advantage of the pool, the spa or any of the other “amenities?”
I have, and I wasn’t happy about it. Nor was I pleased when I was charged to park in a sprawling suburban parking lot, or when I saw the $5 price tag on the bottled water in my room.
Yet, according to the New York Times, this is the way things are headed in the hospitality industry. These extra fees have been growing for the past decade, and this year, U.S. hotels are expected to add on $2.55 billion in fees, according to research by the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University.
Recent highly publicized fees include a parking charge at MGM Resorts International’s Las Vegas properties, breaking a longstanding tradition of free parking at hotels and casinos along the strip. People complained on social media and even started a change.org petition.
The Times reports that hotels are also charging for things that used to be free, like an early or late check-in or a certain size bed. Some hotels are also charging a bellhop fee for holding luggage or helping to carry bags — over and above the customary tip.
Resort fees are another bone of contention, and they are increasing, as well as being charged at more locations. They’ve even spawned a website, resortfeechecker.com, that publishes a list of resort fees for various destinations. Although hotels are required to disclose resort fees at the time of booking, many guests don’t notice the disclosure.
From a customer experience standpoint, these add-on fees create problems because we don’t expect to be charged for these things. I’ll gladly pay a resort fee for the luxury of beach cabanas, beachside towels and complimentary bicycles while I’m on vacation. But when I’m charged a “resort fee” to cover parking and an ordinary swimming pool, it feels a little like bait and switch. I expected to pay the advertised rate, and now I’m being charged more than that.
Customer expectations might seem irrelevant, but they can actually be one of the most important factors that drive a customer’s experience. I discuss this in my recent book,The Intuitive Customer: 7 imperatives for moving your customer experience to the next level (which I co-authored with Professor Ryan Hamilton of Emory University).
Expectations set the tone for a hotel stay, and they’re based on your experiences with a particular hotel or one like it. When it comes to hotel fees, unexpected expenses can mean different things to different guests. Someone traveling on the company dime may not care about a resort fee, but a person who was already over budget is going to feel cheated. And it can be irritating for anyone to pay a couple of hundred dollars for a hotel room and find that there’s also a charge for coffee or Wi-Fi access.
When a business doesn’t meet customer expectations, customers may feel irritated, angry, annoyed or disappointed. These negative emotions become part of the customer’s overall memory of the experience – in this case, a hotel stay. If the hotel doesn’t do anything to manage guests’ expectations or override these negative memories, they become embedded in guests’ minds, reducing the likelihood of a repeat visit.
Full service hotels face competition from limited service providers like Holiday Inn Express and from rental websites like Airbnb. If hotels tack on fees without considering guests’ reactions, they may find themselves struggling.
What hotel charge has irked you the most? Share your reaction in the comment box below.
To learn more about how hotels should be managing their customer experience, and improving yours, register for our 3 part Training Course based on our latest book: The Intuitive Customer: 7 Imperatives for moving your Customer Experience to the next level (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) for only $59!
If you liked this article, you might also want to read these:
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX