It’s getting easier to quickly determine the true cost of a stay at hotels in the Marriott portfolio.
Beginning this month, the hotel giant is rolling out changes to its online booking platform that will fold resort fees and similar add-on charges into the cost displayed when you first search for a property on its site. It’s a move that could help customers sift through the often expensive (and sometimes confusing) web of fees that go into the final price.
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The changes are expected to take effect by May 15. This means that the first price you see will be closer to the price you pay (excluding tax). If your nightly rate is $200 and there’s a $50 nightly resort fee, Marriott will display $250 as the cost right off the bat.
The changes will apply to all properties with a resort or destination fee across the hotel’s brands, and appear on all of Marriott’s U.S. booking channels, including its website and mobile app, a spokesperson said via email.
Why is Marriott changing the way it displays prices?
In confirming the news, the company touted the move as a step toward added transparency.
“We expect to be the first hospitality company to change its display, leading the industry on this important issue,” Marriott said in an email.
In fact, though, Marriott was mandated to make changes as part of a court order involving the company and Pennsylvania, following a 2021 settlement agreement over the company’s “drip pricing” practices.
“What we asked of Marriott, and what the settlement demands, is simple: Be up front with consumers and do not hide fees for hotel stays,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry said in an April 2023 statement.
Marriott resort fees aren’t going away
To be clear, Marriott’s changes will affect what you see when you first search for a hotel’s price — not what you pay in the end.
In speaking to investors this month, Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano downplayed the scope of the changes, noting the company has always ultimately disclosed all fees during the booking process.
“We’re simply further clarifying and enhancing that transparency,” Capuano said as part of the company’s first quarter earnings call, while noting, “It is not as though those [fees] were hidden somehow.”
What Marriott’s new pricing display looks like
A quick check shows Marriott is already beginning to roll out the changes on its website.
A search for hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands turns up a $484-per-night cost at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef in St. Thomas. That price includes a $75-per-night resort fee, which is shown at the beginning of the search.
As about 15% of the base room rate, it’s far from a nominal add-on charge — a key reason guests, politicians and industry analysts have decried these kinds of fees for years, particularly as they’ve become more prevalent.
“I am absolutely opposed to these fees,” says Arun Upneja, dean of the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration, whose work focuses on the hotel industry. “I think the fees have been very, very good for the hotels to raise revenue, but they’re not good for the consumers.”
Will other hotel brands follow suit?
While these changes by Marriott should make it simpler to decipher the true costs of a hotel stay, customers may still need to dig beyond the room rate itself to avoid an apples-and-oranges comparison with other companies that elect not to disclose fees early in the process.
For instance, a search for Hilton hotels in Mexico turns up, at first glance, a $480 nightly rate at the Waldorf Astoria Cancun.
But when you click “View rates” in search of more details, you’ll see that the hotel also plans to tack on a 15% fee.
Marriott’s sheer size could inspire changes at other companies, Upneja says.
“Anything they do, everyone else in the industry has to take it seriously,” he says. “I am very hopeful that everyone else will follow this model.”
A Hyatt spokesperson said in an email the company is “watching the industry closely and actively exploring ways to provide even more transparency for our guests on rates, fees, and inclusions.”
The crusade against fees
Hotel fees have drawn ire from the Biden administration as part of a larger campaign against junk fees across a variety of industries.
“We’ll ban surprise resort fees that hotels tack onto your bill. These fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts,” Biden said as part of his 2023 State of the Union address on Feb. 9.
For now, though, with no such ban, a little research into the nightly rate and any other charges you’ll face — no matter the hotel brand — could go a long way toward eliminating surprises when your bill comes due.