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Hotels May Add Fees to Boost Revenues (and Annoy Customers)

Tearing a page from the airlines' playbook, hotels are expected to begin charging added fees to customers for such faxes, holding bags, early checkout or room service. The projection made at the Business Travel News/National Business Travel Association Strategic Travel Symposium in New York shows that hotels will follow airlines and start adding surcharges to raise revenue amid declining hotel prices. The only problem is, how do they expect to do this when an increasing number of guests want free amenities like WiFi, breakfast and parking?

Perhaps it's because hoteliers are learning from the major airlines, where $7 for a pillow and $50 for a few inches of leg room in the main cabin has become the norm and key for raising cash in a recession.

Hotel fees, which amount to just over $1 billion, have been steadily climbing for the last decade, according to Bjorn Hanson, a professor of tourism and hospitality management. But each property has their own fee structure -- so fees for a stay in one Marriott may not be the same for another.

Fees would also tacked onto the bill for those having business meetings or conventions -- fees on audiovisual equipment, master folio charges and set-up and breakdown fees for meeting rooms.

It's a curious development for an industry where its patrons are constantly looking for free amenities. As soon as the recession hit, airlines raised fares and hotels dropped rates. Hotels, even in places like Las Vegas, found they had to lure guests with lower rates to make up for the rising costs in air travel. And when customers are used to free amenities or bargain rates, adding surcharges isn't likely to make them want to stay again.

While I'm sure the surcharges will be more prominent in higher-end hotels, which always had a higher fee structure, economy hotels and motels will probably be the least affected. Their clientele would never stand for paying $60 a night and then $5 for parking.

Photo: nhanusek