In late August, Business Travel News reported that U.S. hotels will collect a record $2,470,000,000 in service fees and surcharges in 2015. Apparently in 2015 the hotels will reap a five per cent increase in fees collected, resulting from a three per cent higher occupancy rate combined with year-over-year fee increases.
As a planner, I find these service fees a genuine aggravation for my clients who book a hotel for a meeting or event and then find they have to pay extra for just about everything—bartenders, special room set-ups, private functions, using non-preferred audio video suppliers, etc. Even worse in my mind are the resort fees that are added to every guest room by many properties (including many located in downtown centres).
Why don’t hotels present the true pricing in their menu and room rental costs? As an example, if a property offers a hosted bar price in their menu, why not build in the cost of the bartender into the per person cost? For most functions, a client can’t offer a bar without a server so in my mind the hotel should avoid quoting the bartender as an “add on.”
Other examples of properties using service fees as a revenue streams are almost endless. Porterage fees for groups regardless of whether guests use the bell staff or not, blanket charges for fitness centers and business services, room change-over fees, automatic gratuities, etc.
As someone who books meetings for others, I would much prefer that all costs were actually included in each quote provided. This would allow us to create easy budget comparisons for our clients as we look at event options.
Another personal frustration is when properties provide information for an RFP, but then when the event is being finalized and contracts are being negotiated service fees that were never mentioned previously suddenly appear. We have learnt to ask in writing during our initial inquiries whether any service fees might apply.
To my fellow planners, let’s all unite and start complaining about how additional service fees add to the price of our events. It would be far better for the vast majority of us if the prices quoted by properties were complete. Enough planners complained loudly and frequently enough to their suppliers that most properties no longer charge an additional fee for free wireless in public spaces, and some have even offered free Wi-Fi in meeting rooms if no special needs are identified.
To hotel properties, why not end the irritating extra service fees and make your quotes truly transparent? I appreciate $2.5 billion is a lot of revenue, but the hotels will make it anyway if they simply quote the true price up front.
– Les Selby is the Director of Meetings & Events for Aimia’s Channel and Employee division in Canada. He has been a corporate, third party and independent event professional for over 25 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors, and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com.