Back in the spring, MCR Hotels, the fourth largest hotel management company in the United States, announced that they were piloting a program in some of their hotels to charge User Fees for amenities, like gym admittance, that were formerly gratis. The announcement generated significant attention within the industry, like in this blog by Vindow. But months later, the bombshell seems to have landed with a distinct, “meh.” Whatever customer complaints were lodged at the check-out desk, don’t seem to have materialized into a full-fledged customer rebellion. At the same time, the lackadaisical resistance to these fees doesn’t appear to have opened the floodgates throughout the industry for more hotels to follow suit.
Granted it was a small sample test, but without significant negative fallout, it’s likely that travelers might soon see the idea gradually expand to other brands and management companies. So, consumers may soon be asking, “is this legal?” and “is this fair?”
The answer to both is, “yeah, pretty much.”
There’s ample case law on the books that says hotels need to disclose fees to buyers in advance. There’s also enough fine print already in place to slide in new User Fee disclosures without barely a ripple. That, and a couple of discreet posted signs to advise the user at the time or service, is enough due diligence to cover the hotel’s liability. The question of fairness is more subjective, of course. But with some discount airlines virtually basing their business model on charging fees for anything that’s not a seat cushion, it’s not unreasonable that hotels may want to get in on the game.
With hotels continuing to get hammered by fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, any opportunity to generate extra revenue is worth noting. Are User Fees here to stay?
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