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How Travel Websites Are Fighting Back Against Hidden Resort Fees

By Parker Diakite

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You know that annoying feeling you have when you book hotels through a third party online just to see that it was actually cheaper through the company’s website?

Well, representatives from those online travel websites hear you and it’s part of the reason why they’re starting to push back.

Booking.com, one of the world’s largest booking site whose operating company owns Priceline, Kayak, Agoda, and more, plans to charge a commission on resort fees collected by hotels in the U.S. starting this January.

The change comes amid a legal battle with the attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Nebraska who called the fees “deceptive” in lawsuits filed against the Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide Holdings, as reported in The LA Times.

Staff with Booking.com says they hope the change will push hotels to be more transparent about the total cost they plan to charge customers.

“We believe in complete transparency and that the best customer experience is when people know the entire cost upfront,” company spokeswoman Angela Cavis told The LA Times.  “Hopefully this will help continue to push the entire industry toward more transparency and fewer surprises for customers.”

Often times, travel booking sites allow consumers to view hotels by order of lowest to the highest price, which gives the impression that the hotels are cheaper than they actually before the mandatory fees are calculated.

Resort fees, also known as “facility charges,” “destination fees” or “amenity fees” are charges by hotel companies for extras, including gyms, swimming pools, and business centers.

Hotels in the U.S. made an extra $3 billion in 2017 thanks to those fees, according to an estimate by Bjorn Hanson, an adjunct professor at New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.

That’s an 8% increase from 2017, and Hanson predicts rising costs in fees in 2019 as hotels try to navigate through increasing payroll and real estate costs.

Expedia, another online travel booking site will take a different approach than Booking.com. Hotels that charge resort fees will be downgraded on the site when customers sort rooms from lowest to highest prices, The LA Times reports.

The hotel industry pushed back and claims that travel sites are the ones to blame.

“The FTC has received a significant number of complaints from consumers who booked travel through third-party websites, and then were charged additional fees that were not disclosed at the time of booking,” Rosanna Maietta, executive vice president of communications for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said.  

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