Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2020

How to Wrangle Those Pesky Add-on Fees and Service Charges

Shocked business man looking through papers with bills

Resort fees — covering anything from Wi-Fi to fitness center access to newspapers and bottled water — are nothing new, though they are newly under scrutiny as some state attorneys general have brought lawsuits against two big hotel chains for being “deceptive and misleading” by not including the fees in their published room rates.

Meeting and event groups, of course, are not immune to these rapidly proliferating add-on fees.

The latest wrinkle? Hotels placing service charges not just on food and beverage served in meeting spaces, but on the meeting space rental itself. “I have even seen these service charges based on the regular price of the meeting space in cases where that space has been discounted or even comped altogether,” said meetings industry attorney Joshua Grimes, Grimes Law Offices, Philadelphia.

Dealing with Destination Fees
Then there is the destination fee, which is similar to a resort fee but charged at nonresort properties, often those in urban areas. It can cover amenities such as long-distance phone calls, use of the fitness center and pool, and maybe a welcome drink at the lobby bar during happy hour. Unlike resort fees, which may cover activities such as golf that meeting attendees may actually use, most of the amenities covered under an urban property’s destination fee aren’t things that groups will normally use, he said.

“It’s incumbent on meeting planners to be even more careful to look out for these charges when negotiating a contract,” Grimes said. “Planners should ask the property or go on its website to see if it charges a resort or destination fee; if so, it should be included in the contract negotiations, including the amount to be charged and what the inclusions are. Grimes suggested that groups include a provision stating that the resort or destination fee cannot be increased unless explicitly agreed to by the group, he added.

“Further, there should be a provision in the contract that says that no additional fees can be charged to the group or a group guest without the group’s permission. That way, a property can’t assess a destination fee on your guests after you signed the contract,” he said. “If a group is OK with paying a destination fee but doesn’t like the inclusions, you often can change what it includes to make sure it works for your group when you are negotiating the contract.”

It’s also important to monitor at the time of your event to ensure that the terms of the resort or destination fee agreement you reached with the property is being followed. While it may be difficult to apply your conditions to attendees who book outside of your room block, guests who book inside your block should fall under the terms of the agreement.

Grimes recommends the same practices if you find your host hotel adding service charges to your meeting room rental fees. “Once again, it’s important to look for that fee — or any other fee — in the contract, and if your group doesn’t want to pay it, or pay that amount for it, you should negotiate it at the time of contracting,” he said. And once you reach an agreement on the amount of the service charge, get in the contract that it won’t be subject to increase without the group’s consent.

What new twists in add-on fees and service charges have you been seeing lately? Email your examples, and your suggestions for how to deal with this burgeoning challenge, to MeetingMentor editor Sue Pelletier at sue.pelletier@conferencedirect.com.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, the leading publication for senior meeting planners, is circulated to the clients, prospects and sales associates of ConferenceDirect, which books more than 3.87 million room nights. www.meetingmentormag.com

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