Get ready for some annoying new hotel fees, such as minibar restocking and baggage holding fees, in 2013 as projected modest occupancy increases embolden hotels to tack on new fees and surcharges even for their most loyal guests.
And, regarding existing fees and surcharges that you have come to grudgingly expect, hotels will up their game and charge them more frequently and at higher rates.
These are among the 2013 fee trends, says Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean, at NYU's Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. He projects that U.S. hotels' fees rose 5.4 percent in 2012 to $1.95 billion, and will rise again this year.
Here are five new fees Hanson says to watch out for:
Minibar restocking fees
In addition to paying for the beer or M&Ms that you can't resist in the minibar late at night, hotels will charge a minibar restocking fee once you remove the first item. Restocking fees may range from $2.50 to $5.95.
Baggage holding fees
Can you nostalgically recall the days when you left your bags with a bellhop in the hotel lobby, and merely tipped him/her when you were ready to pick up your bags and head off to the airport? Fuhgetaboutit. The hotel now may typically charge you $2 per bag for the privilege of stowing away your bags for a few hours. The tip is not included.
Tiered Wi-Fi fees
Everyone craves free Wi-Fi, but hotels will increasingly go to tiered Wi-Fi fees. Internet access in your hotel room may be free at basic levels for tasks such as checking your e-mail, but expect one or two additional tiers if you want enough bandwidth to stream that movie on your Netflix app (instead of buying it on the hotel's pay-per-view system).
Early departure fees
If you are due to check out on a Thursday, and plans change, meaning you have to depart a day earlier, the hotel may charge you the full rate for the next night anyway, even if you originally booked a refundable rate.
Hotels are getting more strict about their cancellation policies. Although previously you might have been able to cancel your stay without penalty by 6 p.m. the day before your scheduled arrival, some hotels are closing that window and changing the deadline to 48 or even 72 hours prior to arrival. And guests must pay one night's stay if they cancel too late.
Not all of these fees are new, but expect to see them more frequently in 2013.
U.S. hotel fees and surcharges fell from $1.75 billion in 2008 to $1.55 billion in 2009 when business travel declined, but with occupancy rates expected to post a modest increase in 2013, hotels will be "more courageous and less concerned about offending guests," Hanson says.
There will be a "long list" of fees that you will see more frequently this year, as well, and hotels will charge them at higher rates, he adds.
U.S. hotels actually began charging fees in earnest in the late 1990s, well before U.S. airlines, but the record $1.95 billion that hotels were estimated to have charged in fees in 2012 pales in comparison to the $12.4 billion that U.S. airlines were forecast to have levied last year.
Hotels are now playing catch-up.
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