The District of Columbia's top lawyer sued the massive hotel chain Marriott this week, alleging that the resort fees it adds to hotel bills amount to “bait-and-switch advertising.”
Resort fees have become an unavoidable part of paying for accommodations, especially in major tourist destinations like New York City and Las Vegas. Hotel chains big and small add them on after the standard room rate.
But Marriott is the world's largest hotel chain, with more than 5,700 hotels worldwide. And this new legal bid to stamp out resort fees could make an example out of them – and send a clear message to other hoteliers.
“Marriott reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profit by deceiving consumers about the true price of its hotel rooms,” said District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine told Reuters. “Bait-and-switch advertising and deceptive pricing practices are illegal.”
Marriott did not respond to Reuters' request for comment.
Resort fees have been growing for years, sometimes called destination fees or amenity fees. Some hotels and chains display these additional opaque fees more prominently, while others quietly tack it on at check-out.
Either way, they can drastically inflate the nightly rate for a hotel stay. Travelers and watchdogs have long argued that these fees are merely a deceptive way to charge more while advertising a lower rate.
“By charging these fees, hotels can increase profits without appearing to raise prices. Over the past decade, Marriott has increased its use of resort fees,” Racine said.
And it may be hitting a breaking point in 2019. Earlier this year, Booking.com took a stand against resort fees by announcing it would charge hotels a commission on those fees – though The Skift reports that effort has been put on hold.
It's about time. Resort fees have become the backdoor way for hotel chains big and small to raise nightly rates and charge customers more, all while advertising a lower rate upfront.