Perhaps Resort Fees Aren't So Bad After All

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Everyone seems to have an opinion on resort fees, those daily charges some hotels (mostly high-end resorts) tack on to guest bills to cover things like a daily newspaper, fitness center access, bottled water, etc. A lot of guests hate them, complaining they must pay these fees whether or not they use the amenities or facilities. But of course, hoteliers like the fees because of the extra revenues they generate ($1.55 billion in 2990, says NYU hotel school dean Bjorn Hanson) and the perceived rate advantage over properties that bundle these charges into their room rates.

In the past I've railed against resort fees, citing the danger for the hotel industry gaining a reputation of nickel-and-dimeing their customers, much like the airline industry does. I changed my mind somewhat during a recent visit to the Ocean House, a luxury boutique hotel in Watch Hill, RI that was subject of a recent four-part series in Lodging Hospitality on its development and operations.

The property, which charges $700-plus for standard rooms in season, adds a $28 per-day resort fee to folios. While it smacks of the dreaded nickel-and-dimeing, I found the fee to be good value. It included all tips (except in the f&b outlets), valet parking, butler service, daily newspaper, in-room refreshments, Internet access and local phone calls. The real value came in a range of on-property activities also included in the fee. These included cooking classes, fitness programs, wine tastings and more. The only mistake I think Ocean House makes is not disclosing what's included in the fee until after a reservation is made. They should let guests know the value they'll receive as well as the convenience of not needing to reach into their pockets while they're in the hotel.

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