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Mandatory resort fees have emerged as a hot topic in the travel world of late, with the generally hidden daily fees impacting not only customers, but travel agents as well.
Last month, non-profit consumers group Travelers United reported U.S. consumers paid an estimated $2.04 billion in mandatory resort fees over the course of 2015, a 35 percent rise from 2014.
"It's not optional," travel expert Tim Winship told Reuters. "It's not a surcharge for over and above a normal hotel stay. It's a gouge - that's what it comes down to."
In addition to presenting an inaccurate room rate at times, it's not always clear what the fees are paying for. In fact, most of the time the fees claim to go toward hotel amenities that are already being offered, such as Wi-Fi and fitness centers.
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While the American Hotel and Lodging Association defends the practice and denies that any of the fees are hidden, Travelers United co-founder Charlie Leocha described leaving a mandatory fee out of a room rate as "misleading and deceptive."
With resort fees becoming increasingly more common and expensive, according to Leocha's group, Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently called on Congress to draft new legislation designed to protect consumers.
However it's not just the consumer that's impacted by resort fees.
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Since a majority of the fees collected go directly to the hotel owner's bottom line, they don't have to pay out commission to a travel agent. And in turn, often times the travel agent or the hotel management company rather than the hotel owner is forced to answer to the displeased customer.
Therefore, hotel owners have little to no incentive to do away with resort fees. On the flip side, that means the rest of the industry isn't hesistant to move away from resort fees.
Looking ahead, the FTC possesses the power to create change and could potentially send mandatory resort fees into extinction by deeming them unfair or deceptive. At that point, hotel companies could have the final say over owners and eliminate the unwelcome charges for good.
Until then, though, it appears that hotel owners will continue to cash in at the expense of travelers and their agents.
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