A chain hotel has started charging guests a mysterious “sustainability fee” as a standard part of its room rate.
One customer noticed that the Hotel Saint Louis, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in St Louis, Missouri, had added the unexplained $4.99 (£3.70) fee to their one-night rate of $169.
He sent it to the travel blog FlyerTalk, where a reporter called up the hotel in question to find out what the fee covered.
The reception staffer who answered was unable to explain what the fee went towards, reportedly saying: “It’s… okay… ummm… it’s kind of like… taxes…”
Searching for rooms at the New York-based Lexington Hotel, also a Marriott Autograph Collection property, The Independent found basic room rates of $237 per night – at booking stage this showed a built-in “destination amenity fee” of $35, but no added sustainability fee.
Meanwhile, at the Hotel Adagio, another Autograph Collection hotel in San Francisco, a basic rate of $226 is displayed; no added fees were shown beyond an inbuilt government tax of $32.
Many US hotels add vague “resort fees” or “destination fees” to their room rates, sometimes attributed to covering entry to facilities such as spas, swimming pools or lounges, but often left unexplained.
This method – known as “drip pricing” – allows them to publish enticingly cheap basic rates for rooms before adding on fees at the payment stage of booking.
As recently as November 2021, Marriott agreed to prominently disclose any resort fees at its US properties in a legal settlement after it was accused of violating consumer protection laws in Philadelphia.
“Marriott has committed to prominently disclose the total price of a hotel stay, including room rate and all other mandatory fees, on the first page of its booking website as part of the total room rate. Marriott has committed to implementing these changes within the next nine months,” read a statement from the hotel group at the time.
It was the first time a hotel brand had committed to advertising transparent fees in this manner.
MGM Resorts was also sued by a US-based advocacy group, Travelers United, in February 2021 over drip pricing.
“Resort fees are a clear violation of D.C.’s consumer protection laws,” said Lauren Wolfe, a lawyer acting for the group, in a statement.
“It is time to end the abhorrent practice of illegal resort fees by the hotel industry. All mandatory hotel fees must be included in the advertised price in order to be legal.”