U.S. Moves to Ban Hotels' Hidden Resort Fees

February 1, 2023, 7:11 PM · The Biden administration is proposing a Junk Fee Prevention Act that could help travelers save money - or at least avoid pricing surprises - on future trips.

As detailed on the White House website, the proposal would ban hotels from charging separate, unadvertised resort or hospitality or amenity fees to their guests. Instead, all fees would have to be included upfront in the cost of the room when prices are shown on online booking sites, instead of being tacked on at the end of the reservation process.

The proposal does not explicitly mention taxes, but I would love to see those included in the quoted prices of hotels and airfares, too. Personally, I would love to see the United States adopt the standard used in many other places around the world, where the posted or advertised price for anything is the price you pay. No added taxes or fees at the register or check-out.

The typical argument for resort fees is that they bundle the costs of a variety of optional services for guests' convenience, and that many hotels will remove the fees from their guests' bills if the guests choose not to use those services. But that's an after-the-fact, opt-out process and those almost always favor companies over consumers. Automated checkins and checkouts also discourage guests from visiting a front desk where they might get a hotel employee to cancel the fees.

Lawsuits and bad guest feedback have prompted many hotels to start including resort fees in room rates or at least advertised prices, but the hidden fees remain at some properties around the country.

Another section in the proposed act would prevent airlines from seating children under 13 separately from their parents when their parents do not pay an extra fee to choose their seats. That's another strong "yes" from me, if for no other reason than to spare other passengers from having to babysit a child when the airline strands their parents several rows away. It also would do away with the awkward practice of flight attendants trying to help parents rearrange assigned seating when they should be getting the cabin ready for take-off.

Airlines could still charge passengers, including parents, for seat assignments. But when assigning seats for people who did not pay the fee - or have the status or fare class to avoid them - airlines could not split young kids from a parent. They could still seat the parent and child in middle seats in the middle section at the back of the plane, but they would be together.

The whole proposal is probably DOA given the division in Congress right now, but I think it's encouraging to see anyone in government pitching the idea that consumer pricing ought to be more transparent and accurate.

For more theme park and travel news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

And to help support Theme Park Insider while saving money on discounted attraction tickets at destinations around the world, please follow the ticket icon links our Theme Park listings page.

Replies (15)

February 1, 2023 at 10:44 PM

Not to go too off topic here, but I think that this also bleeds right into the multitude of abuses that Ticketmaster inflicts with their “convenience fees” and robust markups. If this bill were to miraculously survive and somehow get through Congress, then may it be the pebble that induces the avalanche on the broken monopoly of the concert ticket racket.

February 1, 2023 at 11:03 PM

After they get done passing this the legislature should move onto ban the "the price is actually 5% higher than what is posted" in small print on the bottom of the sign.

February 1, 2023 at 11:36 PM

Ah, the SeaWorld surcharge.

February 2, 2023 at 3:05 AM

Thanks for sharing this information

February 2, 2023 at 5:26 AM

While I do not like resort fees, I do know they actually save us money. The resort fee is subject to the sales tax but not the occupancy tax. If the cost were just included in the room rate the tax would be higher.

February 2, 2023 at 6:27 AM

Ever notice the VAT tax charged by foreign airlines on your billing detail - now there’s a real eye opener!

February 2, 2023 at 8:19 AM

This proposal, if it were to become law, would do NOTHING to eliminate these fees. Yes, it was common during the pandemic for hotels to charge hidden fees (primarily because hotels didn't know how much it was costing them for pandemic prevention measures, so they weren't disclosing them until check-in), but many of those unadvertised charges have mostly gone away as industry watchdogs and consumers have put hoteliers' feet to the fire.

Also, most (not all) hotels display these fees pretty clearly now, but the issue becomes that aggregators and booking engines do not always include these fees in their displays. That's not the hotel's fault, it's the issues with the booking engines and aggregators, and would not be impacted at all by this proposed legislation. I don't know how many times I've done a hotel search over the past couple of years using various travel websites (including my company's in-house travel app) that display hotel prices least to greatest only to find out that those less expensive hotels having $30-50/night "resort fees" that were not included in the per night charge displayed, making those hotels more expensive than places further down the list.

The industry is not going to change its practice, and the government cannot do anything to alter this legitimate way of charging guests for its services. Now, I do have an issue with hotels that have minimal amenities charging $20+/night for a "resort fee" - most claim that the pool, gym, lobby bar, guest laundry, toiletries, cable TV, and other room features are covered by this fee - but as long as it's disclosed up front (and cannot be raised after securing the reservation), hotels should be able to charge this. It then falls to the customer to do their research and know what this fee will be during their stay, and for booking engines to eventually integrate these fees into their displays to allow for easier and fairer comparisons of properties. Just like Kayak cornered the industry with its displays, some booking engine will eventually come along and offer this functionality.

Ultimately, so long as these fees are disclosed at the time of booking, I don't have an issue with them. Most properties are already doing that now, so I'm not sure what the point of this legislation would be. Hotels are not going to give up on resort fees, and no government action is going to eradicate them.

February 2, 2023 at 3:56 PM

I like this, though the devil will be in the detail as to how effective it is. Resort fees were reasonable at first, but places like Vegas got way too greedy with them. As a foreign tourist, I just don't go to Vegas anymore, it's not high enough on my list of travel priorities to justify the extra cost where sometimes the resort fee is higher than the room price on an aggregator.

I live in a country where it's illegal to not disclose the full price, including sales tax, and any other fees. Years ago, travel agents tried taking the legislation on and market flight prices without taxes and fees. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission notified them very quickly that split price marketing is illegal and that severe penalties would follow if they didn't stop.

February 2, 2023 at 5:21 PM

And that's exactly what this legislation is trying to accomplish: Truth in advertising. This isn't just on aggregator sites like Hotels.com. If you do a search for a room in Las Vegas on the Hilton website, you'll see a list of hotels with nightly prices alongside. Those prices are for the room before taxes and fees are included -- in many markets, that's nominal. In Vegas, that could add more than $50 a night to your stay.

This (probably) won't save consumer's money. But it will save them time and provide a less frustrating experience. A great sign that this is a win for consumers is that hotel lobbying groups hate it.

February 2, 2023 at 10:36 PM

With all the rising costs and such, we as consumers have become much more careful with where our money is going as we try to make every dollar count. It's too bad some companies have resorted to tricking us into parting with our hard earned cash. Last month, I stayed at a hotel in the St. Pete, FL area which was a nicer property near the beach and the price seemed reasonable. Upon check-in I learned there was a $25 / night parking valet fee which was not made clear on the website. After a 4-night stay this added up to a $100 junk fee.

I have no issues with paying amenity fees as long as I am aware of them before I click the reserve button, and am willing to pay them. The proposed legislation is more about ethics than anything, which unfortunately many companies come up short on these days.

Great report, Robert!

February 3, 2023 at 10:54 AM

I like the idea but people need to take some responsibility as well. If you are booking on the actual hotel website such as Marriott the resort fees are clearly listed. Anything extra like parking is your responsibility to look for and investigate. A hotel in a downtown core will obviously have parking fees if you don't look for the price that's your fault not the hotels fault.

The main problem for this are third party websites such as Expedia who don't list any fees. That's were people are getting mad about because to them that's a surprised charge which again isn't the hotels fault but the person who did no research. Overall though I would love for everything to include all taxes and fees just like in Europe but people blaming solely the hotels are wrong. You need to do some research as well so ultimately the fault lies squarely with you.

February 3, 2023 at 1:25 PM

@Francis 24 - I agree, and this proposed legislation won't change a thing (it's pretty narrowly targeted to resort fees, and would not cover parking or anything else someone could have removed from the bill if not used - workout center/spa, bottled water/minibar in the room, cable TV/internet access, etc...).

As you note, the issue is not the hotels, it's the aggregators and booking engines that are not designed to clearly display these costs, though I wouldn't be surprised if hotels don't mind that these fees are not clearly displayed through these third parties and likely manipulate their nightly rates to take advantage of the limitations. Until a third party aggregator comes up with a way to accurately display these auxiliary costs to allow for easier comparison (like Kayak did for airline fares), it's on the consumer to do their own research. These fees and extra costs (and taxes) are no mystery, so pleading ignorance when the final bill doesn't match the initial sticker price simply doesn't fly, and this legislation won't help you out one lick. Do your homework, and shop around (using many different sources - I ALWAYS cross-check the price I'm quoted through an aggregator with the originator's own website and am constantly surprised how often the aggregator charges more than the originator, often with additional fees). Also, if the price doesn't seem right - either too good to be true or out of range compared to competitors - be a skeptic and verify it's the real deal - caveat emptor, ALWAYS!

February 3, 2023 at 2:29 PM

except it's not just on aggregator sites. it's also on sites like Marriott and Hilton that advertise a price in a search only to show a resort fee when you go to book a room. why put the burden on the consumer when you can instead shift the burden to the large companies playing sleight of hand.

just charge a price for the room. include amenities or don't include amenities in that price. going to bat for hotel chains is absolutely wild to me.

February 3, 2023 at 3:13 PM

@Jacob - I would love for that to be the case, and the price listed in search engines, aggregators, and chain websites to be the final price, but that's not what this proposal will do - it just prevents hotels from charging surprise fees at check in, which frankly isn't a problem right now. I agree, the lack of transparency in various fees different chains (and even individual properties within a chain) and various aggregators is maddening. It would be great if rules could be established to force hotels to provide an "all-in" price to allow for easy comparison, but the industry has too much power to allow that to ever happen - the airline industry has done the same thing with all of their micro-transactions too (bag fees, seat selection fees, fare classes, etc...). With that pipedream off the table, the best we can hope for is an aggregator to step forward that can start displaying "all-in" prices to allow for easier comparison - such a development would obviously make that company "best in class". Until that happens, the responsibility falls to the consumer to do their research so they're not surprised when these fees show up when they're confirming the reservation.

February 3, 2023 at 4:15 PM

Never booked through a 3rd party website, but I sure had this problem 2 months ago at a retreat in Arizona. Had to wait almost 30 minutes to dispute hidden fees that weren't mentioned on the website nor at check-in. There excuse, "the website must have made changes after you booked it". Not my problem but luckily I screenshot all pages with payments and quotes.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive