Resort fees are roundly criticized by many people as a sneaky way for hotels to take more money from customers without fully disclosing it. We use the term resort fee to generally refer to a myriad of fees hotels charge. “Destination fee” might be more all-encompassing. While customers uniformly seem to hate these fees, online travel agencies have their own reasons for disliking them. The policy right now is that commission is generally not paid to the online travel agency for any resort fee a hotel charges. That seems like it’s about to change.
Booking.com has announced that they intend to start charging a commission to hotels for the resort fees these hotels charge customers. I’m on an airplane while I’m writing this, so it was a bit tough to drag my soapbox out. However, I’ve managed to do so. I have some issues with the information being reported by Skift.
Booking.com Isn’t Actually Trying To Help You
Skift includes a quote from a Booking.com spokesperson:
“As an extension of our overarching aim to provide our customers with transparent information about the total price they will need to pay at a property when they make a booking and to create a level playing field for all of our accommodation partners, we are updating our process when it comes to charging commission on mandatory extra fees that customers are asked to pay at the property.”
Let’s translate that into plain spoken English. Hotels charge customers resort fees. Booking.com doesn’t earn a commission on those resort fees. They plan to start charging commissions on resorts fees “as an extension of our overarching aim to provide our customers with transparent information about the total price they will need to pay at a property…”
They’re not changing the way these fees are displayed.
They’re just charging the hotel more money. They don’t appear to be doing a single thing to help customers. This move only appears to increase the profitability when a customer books a room through Booking.com.
Resort Fees Are Bad. Online Travel Agencies Are Worse
I’ve never been shy about my dislike of online travel agencies. As a means to search all the hotels at a particular destination, online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Booking.com and Expedia can be helpful. However, they frequently have incorrect or out-of-date information about certain hotels. Their customer service also leaves a lot to be desired.
I tend to avoid OTAs for booking. The problem is that the OTAs were created to help the very customers they end up hurting. Frequent travelers know how to hunt around for the best rate. Occasional travelers may rely on an OTA to have the best information and rates. This has become increasingly false as some larger hotel chains now offer the lowest rates to members on their own websites. You won’t find mention of that on an OTA like Booking.com, since they want you to book on their site. Booking.com won’t get paid if you abandon your search and head over to Hyatt.com to book your next vacation.
This Change Won’t Kill Resort Fees
Booking.com doesn’t have an incentive to show you the lowest rate for a hotel. They have an incentive to show you the lowest rate amongst other OTAs. And, they also now have an incentive to promote hotels that charge resort fees, as they’ll earn more money when a hotel charges a resort fee.
Since resort fees are generally very high-margin fees for hotels, I don’t see Booking.com’s policy change here as a deterrent for hotels to charge resort fees. Maybe if all the OTAs got together and agreed to charge really high commissions on these resort fees, we’d see a change. I’m fairly certain that would violate the law. Besides, if you make a living shearing a sheep on a daily basis (taking a small commission from a hotel on each room you book) you don’t want to kill the sheep. You can make a lot of wool sweaters. You can only serve mutton once.
But, don’t worry. They’re watching out for your best interests.
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