Lawsuit Against Marriott Makes Hotel Pricing Math Easier

Marriott commits to a policy that would be transparent in the disclosure of mandatory fees like resort fees.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Kevin Berry

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While Marriott’s resort fees aren’t going away at this time, the largely loathed, additional — and sometimes hard to spot — fees are set to be less hidden soon.

Marriott International this month committed to implementing a policy that would be upfront and transparent in the disclosure of mandatory fees, including resort fees, as part of the total price of a hotel stay. The news stems out of a lawsuit settlement with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Nov. 17.

“Over the years, travelers have been reportedly misled by the published rates offered by hotels for a night’s stay, only later to be hit with resort fees through the hotel industry’s practice of drip pricing, where the rate advertised does not include additional mandatory fees,” according to a statement from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.

“Hotels shouldn’t be able to slap hidden fees on top of your bill at the last minute, and thanks to this settlement we’re putting the hotel industry on notice to put an end to this deceptive practice,” Shapiro said in a prepared statement.

What to expect at booking

Currently, only the base room rate is displayed on the main booking page. Additional taxes and fees typically don’t appear until you reach the checkout screen. In some cases, travelers don’t even see the extra fees until they’ve arrived at the hotel, and even worse, may not realize it until the charges hit their credit card.

Once the new policy is implemented, expect the total price of your hotel stay, including room rate and all other mandatory fees, to appear on the first page of Marriott’s booking website.

Marriott, which has more than 7,000 properties worldwide, said it would implement these changes within the next nine months, according to Shapiro.

However, don’t expect room rates to necessarily appear this way on third-party websites where you might book rooms, like Expedia or Tripadvisor. While Shapiro said he expects other hotel chains and third-party vendors to follow suit, this news for now only pertains to rooms booked directly with Marriott.

What this means for travelers

This makes Marriott the first major hotel company to formally commit to disclosing resort fees as part of the initial advertised price. This should come as good news for travelers, allowing them to better understand the total price earlier on in the booking process.

If your budget is $100 and you see a $99 room advertised, you might assume you can book that hotel. But upon checkout, you might be startled to see the room rate appears closer to $150 once all the fees kick in. With these changes, you'll be able to better filter and browse hotels that truly fit your budget.

And within Marriott’s website, comparing hotels should be easier too. Prior to this settlement, a no-frills brand like Courtyard by Marriott that likely doesn’t charge resort fees might not initially appear much cheaper than a more resort-oriented Marriott brand like Sheraton, which would more likely charge extra fees. Once the changes go into effect, all Marriott properties will display their true price at booking.

The challenge now comes with comparing prices across different companies. At first glance, Marriott prices might seem higher than the Hilton next door, since Hilton and most other hotel companies don’t usually display resort fees on their home pages.

And for its part, Marriott actually has relatively small resort fees compared to other hotel companies. A NerdWallet analysis of seven major hotel companies found that Marriott hotels have the lowest resort fees as a percent of the total room cost (Hyatt had the highest relative resort fees). In that analysis, Marriott’s resort fees averaged out to be 2.71% of the total room cost, while Hyatt’s resort fees amounted to 6.1% of the cost.

But while Marriott is the only major hotel brand committing to making a change for now, Shapiro said he believes other hotels will follow Marriott’s lead. Shapiro commended Marriott “for being the first hotel to formally commit to the upfront disclosure of resort fees,” calling it “a practice that should be considered the industry standard going forward.”

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