In this era of personalization and guest-centric service, hoteliers know that guest satisfaction and their continued loyalty is the key to a property’s success. And yet, the guest-hotelier relationship is consistently put at risk by a common industry practice, also known as, “The World’s Worst Travel Fee”.

‘Resort fees’; that is, mandatory fees which can add hundreds of dollars to the total cost of a guests’ hotel stay, have become notorious across popular destinations including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas. In fact, this ‘bait-and-surcharge’ model is a long-standing issue and consumer concern. From unexpected transaction fees on credit cards to hidden gratuities on meals and, in the case of travelers, ‘surprise’ resort fees, consumers feel as though brands are trying to trick them into paying more. Is it decidedly deceptive, or ‘consumer-hostile’ as termed by the media? Some consumers would argue yes, insisting that brands are luring them in with an attractive pricing model, only to tack on previously undisclosed fees at checkout.

And now, following years of complaints, negative reviews and, in some cases, lawsuits, guests have simply had enough. After all, are partitioned prices really a fair practice within an industry that prides itself on great hospitality and attentive service? Isn’t there a better way to generate that revenue, without compromising the relationship with each guest?

Hidden Resort Fees Aren’t Good for Business

The issue of undisclosed fees has become prevalent within the hospitality industry where guests can see extra charges of $25 or more per night in a mandatory resort or destination fees, regardless of whether they utilize additional services or perks. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, destination fees increased by 400% to $2.93 billion.

Also known as “drip pricing,” prospective guests might find themselves attracted to an affordable nightly room rate, only to realize upon booking, that the final price is much higher than expected. Understandably, this ‘bait-and-surcharge’ model doesn’t fare well in the current hospitality landscape, as hotel guests value transparency from those brands they frequent, in equal measure to guest consideration, convenience, and personalization. As you might imagine, this kind of approach to secure ancillary revenue doesn’t breed a hotelier-guest relationship founded on trust and value, nor does it inspire long-term loyalty. Instead, guests often leave a property, or exit the booking channel, with a bad taste in their mouth.

In fact, a disgruntled traveler created a site called killresortfees.com to inform travelers of how to avoid or beat resort fees, and just last year, the attorneys general of the District of Colombia and Nebraska filed suit against Marriott International and Hilton. The lawsuit accused the hotel brands of deceptive and misleading pricing practices, which has since sparked an extensive investigation by 50 attorneys general into hotel and resort fees. Even further, a bi-partisan bill seeking to end hidden resort fees was introduced in Congress in September of last year. And while hotel representatives argue that these fees enable additional value for guests, the takeaway is simple: No one likes hidden or unexpected charges.

A Better Alternative to Resort Fees? A Day Guest Program

While the use of deceptive advertising is undeniably problematic, the fees themselves are not necessarily the problem. The fees are imposed to offset the costs of valuable upgrades and amenities, which, in many respects, have the potential to impact the guest experience positively. These can include Wi-Fi access, pool or cabana use, fitness center access, towel service, shuttle service, and more. For urban properties competing for business in popular destinations, the goal is to optimize revenue opportunities without misleading or deterring current and prospective overnight guests.

With revenue optimization in mind, ‘day guest’ programs are steadily gaining popularity and are considered one of the fastest-growing new revenue streams for hotels of all types. These programs allow hoteliers to generate revenue without deterring from the guest experience. Catering to the ever-evolving demographics of daycation-ers, weekenders, and locals, these programs allow guests to swim, relax, eat, drink, and play at their property of choice with no overnight stay required. The best part? The implementation of a day guest program, executed seamlessly with a streamlined day pass booking platform, can effectively offset those dreaded resort fees.

An End-to-End Solution for Day Guests

The day pass movement is so successful in part due to its simplicity and transparency. Consumers browse a list of participating hotels on the ResortPass platform, select a date, and book their desired day pass package for a set fee. In turn, rather than charging guests who may not utilize the amenities defined within a resort or destination fee, hoteliers are empowered to charge those who are actively seeking out those experiences. Suddenly, sustaining profitability through ancillary revenue streams, while also sustaining guest satisfaction, doesn’t seem so complicated.

Ultimately, for hoteliers, there is simply no value to a bait-and-surcharge pricing model. Guests expect and deserve better. The answer, instead, lies in a more creative approach to cultivating all available revenue opportunities across a hotel property. Even those that go beyond the confines of a room for an overnight stay. There is a better way to distribute those fees; one which keeps everyone happy. Say goodbye to drip pricing and say hello to the #daycation.

About the Author

Amanda Szabo is the Founder and CEO of Santa Monica-based ResortPass, an online booking platform for day guest access to the pool, spa, and fitness amenities at resorts and hotels. A life-long entrepreneur, Amanda previously co-founded TravelShack, a booking website for travel activities, and Weddlock, a software platform for event vendors. Amanda’s background is in design, digital arts, and creative services, and has an obsession with all things resort, luxury, wellness, and spa.

About ResortPass

ResortPass is an online booking platform for access to resorts and hotels for the pool, spa, fitness, and activities. Locals and travelers can enjoy leisure amenities at amazing hotel properties without needing to book a room. Our Day Guest Program provides the entire system for hotels to benefit from a significant new revenue channel: inventory & pricing management, online booking, revenue data & reporting, marketing, and full guest support. With over 350 hotel partners and growing across top brands such as Hyatt, Marriott, Four Seasons, Hilton, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton, and many more, we are on the forefront of not only a shift in the hospitality industry but in creating a new category of how people enjoy time with family and friends, as well as those looking for some solo me-time​.  

A fast-growing Silicon Valley venture-backed startup based in sunny Santa Monica, blocks from the beach, we are excited to bring the “daycation”​ experience worldwide.  

To learn more, please visit https://resortpass.com/.

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