Hotels Rake in Record Fees, and Travelers Foot the Bill

Until a few months ago, for instance, it was easy to cancel a room 24 hours in advance, sometimes even the same day. No longer. This summer Marriott International changed its cancellation policy at hotels in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, across almost all of its brands (MVW and Design Hotels are exceptions) to 48 hours before arrival. In some hotels, to avoid a penalty you must cancel 72 hours in advance. Hilton has moved to a stricter cancellation policy as well.

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Automatic gratuities are also becoming more common, particularly at resorts and some urban hotels. These are gratuities for the staff that are added to your bill — though Professor Hanson said some travelers have reported being unaware of this as they handed a tip to the bellman.

There are even fees at some places for the in-room safe. Professor Hanson said it goes something like this: You check in and two days later you check out and there’s a $2 daily charge on your bill. “But I didn’t use the safe,” you say. The hotel’s response is that it’s a charge for the availability — not necessarily the use of — the safe.

It may also dawn on you that the $4.95 daily “minibar restocking fee” on your bill is in addition to the cost of whatever you take out of the minibar. The Snickers you had may cost $3, but if you factor in the restocking fee, that makes it a $7.95 candy bar.

Groups that book events at hotels are seeing new or higher charges for things like the set-up and breakdown of meeting rooms, as well as for bartenders and other staff.

Like airlines that rack up ancillary fee revenue by charging for every little thing, hotels are finding ways to get travelers to keep opening their wallets. Baggage holding fees, for example. Say you have an evening flight, but checkout is at noon. Some hotels will charge you a few dollars to store your bags…

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