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What’s the deal with New York hotel ‘resort fees’?

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There was some discussion in the Comments section on Friday about the spread of ‘resort fees’ to New York.  We mentioned this briefly on HFP a year ago but the problem has grown substantially since then.

Many readers will have been asked for so called “resort fees” when staying at a resort hotel in North America.  Las Vegas is especially keen on them. It’s a daily mandatory extra fee charged by the hotel which is added on to the room rate that you originally agreed to pay. This is an easy way for a hotel to advertise a cheaper price but charge a higher one.  It is usually added to loyalty scheme reward nights even when the room itself is free.

The fee might cover using certain facilities like the swimming pool or gym (because obviously you expect to pay for using a hotel swimming pool otherwise) and sometimes includes food and beverage vouchers.  You either end up having to use something you didn’t plan to – because, for example, you ‘bought’ a voucher for the hotel restaurant – or you pay for something you don’t even use.

This Wikipedia article is a good primer on the topic.

As resort fees are a great income stream for hotels in countries where they are not illegal, more and more hotels which are certainly not a resort have started charging them. As they cannot call it ‘resort fee’, names like ‘Urban Destination Charge’ or ‘Experience Fee’ have started to pop up on hotel websites.

Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton are just some of the companies that have added fees in the New York area.

New York Hilton Midtown‘s ‘Urban Destination Charge’ costs $25 + tax per day and is justified by offering guests

  • premium guest wifi for up to three devices
  • daily $15 beverage credit in Lobby Lounge or Bridges Bar
  • daily $10 food credit in Herb N’ Kitchen (grab and go only)
  • local and toll-free calls

You can get your money back by buying a drink for $15 and using the $10 food credit, but with New York being New York I doubt that any guest wouldn’t rather spend the $25 in the city.

It is worth noting that this property is directly owned by Hilton.  It is not a franchise or management contract and the company is clearly in full control of what is going on.

Note that New York Hilton Midtown has 1,932 rooms.  This means that, if full, the hotel generates $48,000 per day from this fee, or $17.6 million per year.  Even assuming a modest 85% occupancy it would generate $15m per year.

The Grand Hyatt New York also has a $25 + tax per day ‘Destination Fee’.  This is what you get for your money:

  • Premium high-speed internet access
  • Local, long distance and international calls
  • $15 food and beverage credit in the Market per room per day
  • Daily access to the digital version of New York Times & Financial Times
  • Seasonal skyline rooftop tour of the Chrysler Building
  • Grand Central self-guided audio tour for two per stay
  • Macy’s Herald Square Grand Shopping Experience
  • Grand Central coupon book with discounts and free offers in Grand Central shops and restaurants
  • Luggage storage upon check-out (up to two bags, maximum eight hours)

Free long distance and international calls could be interesting as these could end up in a huge mobile bill otherwise – but only if you need to call home a lot and don’t have Skype. The free luggage storage upon check-out sounds a bit odd as whenever I’ve stayed in a hotel and my flight wasn’t till late, I was able to leave my luggage free of charge anyway ……  The Chrysler Building tour takes place four times a week at 10am depending on the weather – so there is a possibility you won’t even be able to do this. There is more small print which you can find here.

Nest up is the Sheraton Times Square and its ‘Daily Destination Fee’. For $25 + tax daily guests will receive:

  • $25 daily Food and Beverage Credit in Hudson’s Market, In-Room Dining, or Club Lounge,
  • One NYC experience of choice per day (Gulliver’s Gate in Times Square; Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, or City Sights New York Cruise)
  • 20% discount at Landau on all regular priced merchandise
  • Fitness Class with on-property instructor (1 per day)
  • enhanced wired internet and local / long distance / international calls

The food and beverage credit cannot be accumulated for multi-day stays which of course makes it harder to use.  Club Lounge credit is for beverages only and of course you need Platinum status for access to the Club Lounge anyway (and are drinks not meant to be free in the lounge?!).  Tax is not included either.

Even though the Sheraton’s ‘Daily Destination Fee’ looks better than Hilton’s ‘Urban Destination Charge’ it still doesn’t convince. If you’re travelling on your own you might be able to get your money worth but you’re still forced to use services you might otherwise not use and eat at the hotel when you could spend the same money elsewhere. There are three NYC Experiences to choose from, but it looks like its only one ticket per room per day and I doubt you can accumulate them (though the small print only mentions no accumulation of food and beverage credit).

St. Regis New York has with $50 the highest ‘Destination Fee’. The $50 + tax per day will give you:

  • Daily $50 Food and Beverage credit (available in all outlets)
  • Daily $50 laundry / dry cleaning credit
  • Daily $24 Fodera hair salon credit
  • Free high speed internet, local, long distance and international calls (unlimited)
  • 2 museum tickets per day

The daily food and beverage credit already covers the $50, you might use the laundry or dry clean credit and if a blow dry is $25, which I doubt it is, you wouldn’t need to wash your own hair whilst staying at the St. Regis! But again you the fee forces you to eat and drink at the hotel and everything else might not be relevant or of interest.


Whilst not all of these packages represent terrible value for money, you are being forced to pay for something which you may or may not want.  The longer your stay, the poorer value they become as the fee is daily but many of the benefits are one off, such as Grand Hyatt’s Chrysler Building tour.  Unfortunately you now need to be very sure you read the website small print clearly before booking any New York hotel rooms, especially via third party booking sites where the fee might be ‘forgotten’.

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  1. OT: I’m trying hard to get a booking a certain high-end london restaurant due to a last-minute change of plans. I’ve called and they don’t have space.

    I have amex plat, but I’ve checked and restaurant isn’t part of the amex “global dining collection”.

    It seems like a long shot, but does anyone have any tips or ideas that might let me get a reservation?

    • I had a chum phone a swanky West End resturant and ask could he book a table in the name of “Daltrey”, they were full but assumed it was for Roger Daltrey and got him in without hesitation. Where shoked when the wrong Mr Daltrey turned up.

    • You could offer to go early and clear the table by a certain time. Or they may have an early booking that you could do a second seating after.

  2. thank god this is illegal in the EU

    • It’s not illegal to charge extra fees, only not to advertise them alongside the headline price! A fair few Spanish hotels now charge extra fees.

  3. New to HH points collecting. It says I get 2500 bonus points on my first 4 stays booked with my HH visa. So if I booked a night at $170 with a x points package, and used my HH visa to pay, how many points in total would I get for the booking? (Just wondering if it’s worth paying a few extra dollars for the 2 x points).

    • The 2500 are worth about £8 so (assuming you have a 0% FX fees card as an alternative) you need to factor that in. It is best done on UK stays because of the FX issue.

      • Also, careful if you get a refund abroad with the HH card, the last couple of times this has happened, Barclaycard have charged a fee for the conversion on the refund!

        (e.g.) I booked a hotel with my HH card, but it took an immediate deposit, the hotel refunded me same day ( I came to an agreement with them), but Barclaycard charged me ~£32 in fees for both transactions!

        Customer service were easy enough to talk to and they waived the fees, but something to be careful of.

    • But how many points will I get for the booking? Will it be 10 x $170 x 2 plus the bonus 2500?

      • Yes (adjusting the $170 for taxes)

      • Anna, I think the Hilton card may give you Hilton Silver status – in which case you’d get a bonus of 15% on the base points (the first 10). But not on the bonus points (the second 10).

    • Also make sure that your Barclaycard is added to your HH profile. My understanding is that HH apply these bonus points rather than Barclaycard.

      • Thanks – I put my HH membership number on the visa application form, will that do the trick?

        • Yes, will do.

        • Let me know how you get on – it didn’t work for me. Had to change B/C and then Hilton. At least B/C did the right thing after giving me the run around and compensated me for the hassle.

      • Never paid with HH card for Hilton stay outside of UK and got 2500 bonus 5 times (I know, it should be only 4 times). I only use HH Card in UK and it’s not in my profile.

  4. OT (but hotel-related – ish) – how long do people find it takes for BA to refund EU261 claims? I submitted on the 15th of January.

  5. Crowne Plaza Times Square also added a sneaky $34.43 resort fee a while back. This is in addition to the fairly high tax already added there.

  6. Purely from the view of hotels paying lower taxes and travel agent referal fees, I’d imagine, in theory, these fees should appeal to hfp readers. It seems a bit like the old days of ebay where sellers could push the item cost onto inflated fee-free postage, and pass that discount on to the buyer (a strategy which seemed hated by all those who didn’t understand the benefit). But transparency is the issue, and an understanding of why it could be in the consumers interest. Also, you are relying on each individual hotel’s implementation being customer focused.

  7. I’m finding SPG adding taxes and wot not after their advertised price per night in Dubai grating. I recently calculated that in some cases the advertised price rose over 22% from the original price shown.

    • Just to add, and that’s before we delve into the hidden mysterious world of exchange rates we never get to see.

    • That is normal in Dubai – municipality tax (10%), service charge (10%) and now VAT (5%).

      • Exactly, that’s 25% which I don’t ‘mind’ paying because it is what it is. It’s SPG not being upfront about it plus the conversion rate which annoys me.

        Anyway, how are you doing? Pneumonia all gone? ????

        • Sorry about being a pedant but VAT is charged on the service charge meaning it’s actually (100+10)*1.05 + 10 = 25.5% + the tourism charge.

        • I think I will be able to stay awake beyond 8pm today which will be a notable improvement on the last two weeks.

  8. OT – Anyone know where I can get a Japan Rail Pass -GReen Car from and pay with my Amex?

  9. My wife and I recently stayed at the St. Regis New York and made good use of the Destination Fee amenities to the point where we felt like we got our money’s worth. The $50 credit for dining helped since we were having afternoon tea one day, grabbed some late room-service on another after the theater, and had some drinks and light dishes at the King Cole bar on our last night. We definitely ate enough to justify the food credit.

    On the plus side, the food at Astor Court and the King Cole bar are pretty delicious, so you’re not getting garbage food. I took advantage of the laundry credit and it was nice to have my jeans and sweater cleaned after our day of travel from LAS – JFK and another set of clothing laundered after a full day of walking around Manhattan in the rain.

    The MOMA tickets are a good deal given they’re $25 per person so if you were going to go anyways (or want to try something you wouldn’t experience otherwise), it is nice they’re included in the fee. I’d recommend everyone take advantage of those because Met tickets can be had for less.

    I can’t comment on the salon credit because we didn’t avail ourselves of that service.

  10. No ‘bits’ today? (had to check this carefully for a typo!)


    Virgin Trains East Coast – if travelling with an under-5yr old child, I understand they go free (albeit without a seat reservation) however, do they get the free food onboard?


  11. Resort fee unexpectedly appeared under rate details on SPG app for last 2 stays at Park Central San Francisco (total business hotel downtown) but fortunately not on the final invoice. Got SPG gold.
    PS tried BA OAK-LGW 2 weeks ago with only 32 PAX on a 777 and 12 crew. Eerily weird given today’s near full loads. Similar load on way out apparently.

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