Originally published Monday, October 31, 2011 at 6:30 AM

Hotels charging fees for what once was free

Telephone and mini-bar charges have long been standard, but the hotel industry is expected to pocket a record $1.8 billion this year with...

Los Angeles Times

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Telephone and mini-bar charges have long been standard, but the hotel industry is expected to pocket a record $1.8 billion this year with an assortment of new fees for housekeeping, room-service trays, bellhops and early cancellations — services once thought to be part of room rates.

The latest revenue estimate represents an 80 percent increase from 2001, when hotels generated about $1 billion from such fees, according to a study by Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

Hanson said the increase in revenue comes as hotels have added many new charges and guest demand for hotel rooms has gradually grown in the last few years. Among the newest fees popping up at hotels across the country, he said, is one of about $2.50 to have the hotel bell staff hold your bags either before you check in or after you check out.

Travelers have taken note of the new charges.

"They are getting sneakier and sneakier," said Johnny Foster, a retired police officer from North Carolina who was staying at the Wilshire Grand Los Angeles. "Are you sure the politicians aren't running the hotels?"

He suspects hotels are charging more for nearly everything in hopes that guests won't notice.

Hotel industry representatives defend the charges and say hotel guests can avoid many of them by simply choosing not to use the services.

Because such fees vary by hotel and by season, Hanson said he could not calculate how much each fee generates for the industry.

Still, Hanson estimated that the most revenue came from resort fees of up to $20 per day, early cancellation fees that can equal the room rate, a tray charge of about $2.50 that is added with room service orders and a housekeeping charge of $10 to $13 per day.

Hotels can make profits of 80 percent to 90 percent on such fees as housekeeping charges or mini-bar restocking fees, said Hanson.

In the airline industry, the trend of charging passengers extra fees to check bags or order food on a flight has sparked widespread anger and prompted federal regulators to require the airline industry to disclose the extra charges on airline websites.

But Hanson said that airlines are only following the lead of the hotel industry, which began the trend in the late 1990s with the introduction of resort fees, sometimes titled "amenities tariffs."

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