Resort fees are deceptive. They hide part of a hotel room’s cost until you’re at checkout, making it difficult to compare costs. But by moving part of the room rate into a resort or destination fee, hotels are able to:
- Make themselves look cheaper than they really are
- Save money on taxes in some jurisdictions
- Save money on commissions (where only the room rate is commissionable)
There are numerous built-in reasons why a hotel wants to engage in deceptive practices like this. Marriott creates another such incentive for its hotels.
- Hotels get to charge these fees to award guests
- Hotels don’t have to pay for points for the resort fee portion of a room rate
Hotels earn more money from redemption stays by charging Bonvoy members a fee that neither Hilton nor Hyatt imposes on its members redeeming points. It’s a straight money grab, because of course you can’t choose to spend your points outside of the Marriott ecosystem, so they can impose a tax on member redemptions.
But it’s also a hotel cost-saving tool. According to the program’s terms item 2.1.b qualifying charges include “Rates for Stays.” And while I certainly believe the stronger argument is that a resort or destination fee is part of the room rate since it is not optional, it is part of the cost for staying in the room (!) Marriott doesn’t interpret it this way. Instead they do not award members with points for resort fees, and hotels therefore do not have to pay Marriott Bonvoy for these points.
Just like they inflate hotel payments on redemptions by imposing a cash co-pay on members (who aren’t redeeming a cash and points award) by reducing member points-earning for hotel stays, they’ve saved hotels money. Bonvoy was promised to be lower-cost to hotel owners and resort fees – charged to members, while cheating them on points-earning – part of how they do this. And as a result Marriott doesn’t just tolerate resort fees at hotels, they actively encourage them.
And this is why I’m thrilled by a small victory. After an award stay where I wasn’t credited any points (including for food and beverage charged to the room) I contacted Marriott on twitter. They posed the food charges, but not the resort fee. I argued that resort fees are part of the rate and therefore qualifying charges and since Marriott customer service generally gets their policies wrong, they credited me with the points.