Marriott is going to make a major shift this month in how it displays prices on its website, and to its English language mobile app. The first and most prominent price for a hotel that Marriott displays will be the price inclusive of resort or destination fees so when you search the Marriott website you won’t be duped into thinking a hotel is cheaper than it is, only to see disclosure of a higher price at check-out. The change will occur starting in mid-May, expected between May 15 and 23.
This is required by a settlement over resort fees as a deceptive practice that they entered into with Pennsylvania in 2021 and that they are late in implementing.
What Marriott’s Resort Fee Settlement Requires
All rate displays have to include the total price of a reservation – and it has to be the most prominently displayed price. Call center agents have to quote prices inclusive of fees, too.
When you search for hotels, search results sorted by price have to be sorted by total price inclusive of all costs.
Resort and destination fees cannot be lumped in with taxes in any display. They have to be shown separately, and prior to completing a booking Marriott has to display what’s provided by the property in exchange for the mandatory fee. This isn’t only something you’ll find out at check-in anymore, once implemented.
What’s Changing – And What Isn’t
The change to Marriott’s pricing display is a big deal because it could signal an industry shift away from resort fees. If resort fees are included in the price, they don’t matter to the consumer traveling on paid rates. Only jurisdictions where there’s differential tax treatment between resort fees and room rates, and discount deals where a percentage off applies to a room rate but not resort fee, will care when it comes to paid travel.
To be clear: resort and destination fees aren’t going away at Marriott. While Hyatt and Hilton do not add resort fees onto redemption stays, Marriott hotels can charge Bonvoy free night guests a resort fee. And there’s no display change, even, when searching for Bonvoy free night awards – you’ll still see the price displayed in points and not inclusive of resort fees.
And for now this change only applies to Marriott channels. So if you’re comparing the price of hotels across different chains, such as at Expedia or Priceline, you will still be shown incomplete rates. You have to click through each one to figure out the resort fee and then do the math to compare hotel prices.
Will Other Chains – And Online Travel Agency Sites – Follow Marriott?
Several states are continuing to pursue claims against hotel chains for deceptive practices. Resort fees make it difficult for consumers to compare prices, since the price they see on initial search isn’t the actual price. Hotels that don’t have resort fees look more expensive and are effectively punished.
Marriott settled with Pennsylvania because the state was willing to accept a change in business practices – without big fines. California and Washington D.C. want money. Texas is threatening to sue those who don’t enter into agreements similar to what Marriott did with Pennsylvania. So what’s going to happen?
- Hilton has the technology ready to go to match this. Whether they implement depends on whether other industry players follow.
- No one seems poised to follow on right away and that includes other hotel chains (like IHG and Accor) as well as online travel agencies (like Expedia and Booking.com).
- Expedia will continue to show Marriott rates excluding resort fees – they can show inclusive rates, but don’t make those the most prominent. That makes it appear to the consumer as though it’s cheaper to book through Expedia.
President Biden has made resort fees a political issue but has chosen not to actually do anything about them. Eventually though pressure from state lawsuits could bring other chains to the table. If Hilton and another big chain follow Marriott it’ll be hard for the industry as a whole not to switch.