Dear Hyatt, Please Don’t Impose Coronavirus Surcharges On Hotel Stays

Update: Hyatt offers a strong denial that this idea is under consideration,

Hyatt is not considering implementing COVID-19 surcharges across its hotels, nor was it ever. To provide reassurance to our valued guests and members, this topic was initially raised not by Hyatt but by a member in a private forum that Hyatt uses to listen and gather guest and member feedback. While the third-party moderator then sought the perspective of the forum, it was not Hyatt’s intent or direction to survey this topic, nor does it need a forum to confirm that now is not the right time to institute new fees like this.

Hyatt suggests that the moderator of their online community wasn’t directed to survey the topic, and I take them at their word.

Yesterday I offered 5 reasons a hotel ‘coronavirus surcharge’ is a terrible idea. The hotel chain surveying some of its customers about this is Hyatt.

Hotel Surcharges Serve No Legitimate Purpose

When you book a hotel room, you expect to pay the room rate plus government-imposed taxes and fees. It isn’t just important to be able to see the expected total cost prior to purchase. The total needs to be shown up front, in the rate, so you can compare prices and make an informed decision.

Increasingly hotels add ‘surcharges’ on top of their prices. That makes the initial price you compare against other hotels. And once one does it, they all do it, because no one wants to look artificially more expensive than competitors. Marriott even imposes these surcharges on award stays.

There are two possibilities: either customers factor these surcharges into the total price when making a decision (though most people are bad at math), or the charges are deceptive. In the former case they don’t matter much, so there’s no reason to use them. In the latter case they’re tantamount to fraud. Either way they serve no legitimate purpose.

Nonetheless surcharges spread beyond just ‘resort fees’ at a limited number of hotels. Big city properties now add ‘destination fees’ in big cities like New York or Chicago. And in Las Vegas individual restaurants and bars may charge venue fees, in addition to the resort fees you pay for your room.

Hyatt Is Talking About A COVID-19 Surcharge

Now Hyatt is talking about imposing a fourth type: a COVID-19 surcharge. The chain surveyed members of its internal ‘influencers’ community for feedback to help them consider the idea.

With the impacts of COVID-19 affecting businesses globally, hotels and restaurants may institute a new “COVID-19 surcharge” as they reopen. (The surcharge is usually added as a percentage to any bill/order.)

Though Hyatt teams have not discussed any plans to move forward with this yet, they’d like to know your opinions on the COVID-19 surcharge. (Are you in favor/disagreement? Any pros/cons? Any recommendations? Any concerns?)

A Hyatt COVID-19 Surcharge Undermines The Trust That’s More Important Than Ever

I’d like to offer Hyatt feedback, and I’d like all of us to do so. This is a horrible idea, that undermines trust in the brand completely. It’s trust in the brand that drives value for Hyatt Hotels Corporation. They really risk undermining their business.

If a surcharge is needed to cover the cost of making a hotel safe from SARS-CoV-2, then it’s not part of a hotel’s basic practices. the room rate doesn’t buy a safe stay. That communication is downright scary. And hiding the ball on price is untrustworthy and what’s needed to bring travelers back more than ever is trust.

We cannot trust any hotel chain that tries this, and it’s so contrary to the brand purpose Hyatt has invested in that it uniquely undermines their relationship with customers. Dear Hyatt, please do not move forward with this idea. Am I off base here?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No, you are right on. Adding a Coronavirus surcharge is unjustified, completely unnecessary and would destroy my trust in Hyatt.

  2. Hyatt is our absolute go-to for hotel stays. We trust them and they’ve been great to us. Adding this pathetic fee would undermine everything we’ve come to expect from Hyatt immediately wreck our loyalty to them.
    Raise the price. Let us decide.Period.

  3. @ Gary — If hotels want to play these games, their distressed inventory will stay high, and then I will just buy the rooms from Priceline for $35/night. I can request two connecting rooms and end up with a suite for less than one regular room. Yeah, the COVID-19 fee may still apply to the Priceline rate, but as long as I pay WAY less, I’ll be happy. It saddens me to see the only travel company that I still trust (Hyatt) even considering adding these b.s. fees.

  4. This is ridiculous absolutely ridiculous. Who do they think they’re kidding. Like resort fees another way to collect cash.

  5. I was wrong (as were many others) thinking this was Marriott, as it would be a very Marriotty thing to do.

    Hyatt, you’re better than this.

  6. I commented yesterday about this in Hyatt’s Travel Influencers forum and brought up the exact same point as @garyleff. This definitely turned into a hot-button topic on there. This is no different than the resort fees or any tacked-on fee imposed by the hotel. Hyatt wants to impose a “tax” on its customer to offset its costs. Is Hyatt offering a “value added service?” It sure does not seem like it. What’s next, paying a surcharge on toilet flushes or running the a/c?

    I think we, as consumers, understand that the prices of goods and services will be going up in the foreseeable future. That’s just natural economics of this situation. Just calculate this added expense in the markup and change the net prices. Quit nickel and diming us! We have enough of that everywhere else in our lives.

  7. Christopher said, “I think we, as consumers, understand that the prices of goods and services will be going up in the foreseeable future. That’s just natural economics of this situation.”

    I disagree. Both business and leisure travel will experience a sharp decline over the next 12 months. Hotel rooms are an elastic demand meaning if the price goes up, fewer people will purchase. Add that the inventory expires each and every day – a hotel room for yesterday has zero value. Competition for fewer customers will lead to generous promotions and discounted pricing.

  8. I will absolutely cease any attempt at globalist status if this happens. I can’t invest my time and energy into a company with such a major trust issue. I’m completely shocked this is coming from Hyatt.

  9. Let’s not see a repeat of the airline “Fuel surcharge” BS that came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other calamitous events…. but never really went away. Plumbers in my area started tacking on a “trip charge” to drive to your house, with $4.00+ fuel.

    Once the money starts rolling in, business don’t want to let it go. Witness how now the airlines now just blatantly name it a “Carrier Surcharge”… meaningless and for no substantive reason. And that contractor trip charge is still there, too.

    I agree with you Gary, the room rates are already dynamic. And if the cost of doing business (of maintaining your grounds and rooms, of paying your staff for more cleaning, for sanitizing supplies) then the room rate should fully reflect that, all in. Even if it is a separate line-item, it should be rolled into the overall rate, not a surprise at the end. I would expect and hope hotel rates would rise a bit. I want those places to remain in business, and they must be financially viable to do so!

    I can’t remember if it was you who compared the ancillary fee models to other industries, and how ridiculous it would be.
    Restaurants: Silverware surcharge. Clean dishes surcharge is next??
    Rental cars: Tire inflation surcharge sound good? Non-broken windshield fee sound reasonable?
    Grocery stores: Cart cleaning fee. Labor fee for laying down those ‘One way’ aisle markers?

    For most companies, the pricing of things is not very nimble, and so they must cover the up-front costs of additional cleaning supplies and staff hours, and such. So, of course, they want to recoup that ASAP and an arbitrary fee is the easiest way.
    To me, this all speaks to the wholesale mismanagement of most large companies: a singular focus on the P&L and dividends and investors. Rather than the *business* and its people.
    Maintaining a reasonable cash war chest for unforeseen circumstances that crop up seemingly at least once a decade, is part of a long-term management plan…. just like having an emergency cash savings account is/should be part of any family’s long-term plan.

  10. Totally agree, the just charge what is needed to provide a clean room, don’t nickel and dime people. If Globalist voice count – don’t do it1

  11. Hyatt has uniquely positioned itself within the market and developed itself as a brand that does not pull this sort of nickel and dime nonsense. Its prices are generally already at a premium in most markets, relative to competing Marriott, Hilton, and IHG properties, but you know you won’t be dealing with any nonsense at Hyatt. Adding a COVID surcharge would be bad optics, bad business, and bad loyalty to customers. Surprising to me that Hyatt leadership would even float this as an option.

  12. @Raylan sez: “Surprising to me that Hyatt leadership would even float this as an option.”

    Well, it sounds like s/he finally woke up and smelled the coffee!

    That @Raylan and others would be ‘surprised’ that Hyatt would pull anything like this fee simply says that too many have drunk the kool-aid about how Hyatt is very “special” and more trustworthy than other hospitality companies, when in reality there are hardly any differences among hospitality companies for similarly-categorized properties or similarly-priced rooms in a given market…

    A *critical mind* is a terrible thing to waste…

  13. Reminds me of fuel surcharge increases by garbage pickup companies. When fuel was $4.00-plus per gallon, I didn’t like the increase but could understand their POV. However, with current gasoline prices below $2.00 per gallon, the increase remains. I called them out on this for an explanation. Crickets…. I will do the same for any national hotel or airline chain that gouges the customer with fictitious fees and exercise my rights to go elsewhere – permanently.

  14. I agree as well. I am spending my way to Globalist on the hope I can safely travel next year. I love Hyatt, but i8hate hidden fees.

    If they need the money they should increase their prices. I wouldn’t be happy, but I would not feel hoodwinked.

    I hate having to juggle in my head someone’s added fees in order to compare prices/value.

  15. I can fully understand with occupancy down and overall costs higher (mainly due to cleaning and over staffing for level of occupancy) the average room costs would be higher for a hotel and their profits down. However, I agree a COVID surcharge is a horrible idea. I’m not in favor of resort fees but at least that doesn’t carry the stigma of “we had to charge more to actually clean your room so you didn’t get a virus”!

    Answer is to raise the room rates $5-$10 a night if you really need the extra income to cover expenses. Yes this may put you slightly above some competitors but IMHO most people that stay at Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt are more loyal to the brand and relatively small price differences don’t change overall selection.

  16. +1 Everybody! Especially since I’ve just applied for a brand-new Chase Hyatt Visa to churn/ replace my Bonvoy Boundless Visa! I can’t resist 50K welcome points! And Hyatt X14s are as good as or better than Marriott X15s.

  17. Is there any dedicated forum for this kind of feedback at Hyatt? I’m a globalist, so should I just reach out to my concierge, or is there another better way?

    All add-on fees are awful, and the damage to the brand is worth more than any extra commissions paid to third parties on higher all-in rates.

  18. Just as Airlines add “fuel surcharges” you will bet your bottom dollar that hotels will now start adding this to the bill as well Heck, an airline just tried to do something like this….pay for middle seats to be blocked.

    The only way this will be addressed is if the Federal Govt. passes a law outlawing any type of surcharges or extra fees anymore. I would love to see this for the hotel and airline industry. Honest billing. Period.

    But, the hotel and airline business will certainly put money in the pockets of politicians to make sure this would not happen.

    So, buckle up, it is coming.

  19. @Gary – You called this one right. Hyatt has done a lot to retain customer trust. Why would they wipe that out with a ridiculous fee like this?

  20. Way to go, Hyatt Corporate, for throwing the Travel Influencers moderator right under the bus.

    And yes, there is a predominately negative response to this Cleaning Fee topic. Nearly no one wants to pay for a cleaning fee outright. Eat the cost and write it off, because this stupid idea by some marketing idiot got exposed.

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