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Mandatory resort fees add up to big money for South Florida hotels

Unregulated fees slap extra costs on hotel bills to unsuspecting vacation goers

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – High, and in some cases unexpected, mandatory resort fees are irking South Florida tourists.

"It’s really ridiculous," North Carolina resident Ann Arthur said.

Arthur was on vacation in Fort Lauderdale recently and was charged an extra resort fee of $36 per night.

"They told us we are paying for two beach chairs, rental of two bikes and I think two bottles of water," Arthur added.

The resort fee, which was also taxed, added over $150 to her bill.

Buffalo resident Jim Grady says he specifically booked the Premiere Hotel in Fort Lauderdale because there are no extra fees.

"I wouldn’t pay them." Grady said.

New York resident Mark Kornspan says a daily resort fee, plus $45 per day to park, may have him crossing Miami Beach off his list of places to go.

"It doesn't seem really fair," Kornspan said. "When you budget your vacation you don't think about these extras. These resort fees should be in the hotel price."

Resort fees, service fees and amenity fees have become an industry norm. Resort fees are not regulated and the fees are not included in the advertised room rate, experts warn.

Online, hotels typically quote an initial rate that doesn't include these fees, giving travelers an illusion of a lower price. Only after you move toward the final booking screen do the mandatory resort fees pop up.

"It’s an unfair hidden fee, which many times the consumer doesn’t know until they get to the hotel," Olga Ramudo, owner of Express Travel in Coral Gables, said.

Ramudo also sits on the board of the American Society of Travel Advisors.

"If they look closely when booking on websites, they will see it in the bottom line, hidden in very small print," Ramudo added.

Ramudo says the extra fees will jump 35 percent from 2018 to 2019 and generate an extra $3 billion for the hotel industry.

"Also in many instances you are paying for something that you don't use," she said.

The fees are mandatory.

"Everyone is talking about it because it’s kinda gone crazy," travel adviser Eddie Woodham said. "The consumers have to be really careful. The fees ad up quick."

The Parisian Hotel on Collins Avenue is not a resort, but charges a resort fee. No one at the Parisian Hotel would answer requests by Local 10 News investigator Jeff Weinsier as to what the charges were for.

On Hotwire, of the 50-plus Miami Beach hotels that popped up, all but a handful charged an additional resort fees. No one from the list approached by Local 10 would talk on camera about the extra fees.

At the Penguin Hotel on Ocean Drive, the resort fee includes continental breakfast, Wi-Fi, beach towels, water and local calls. If you don't use them, you still must pay.

Jonas Anderson was on a vacation from Scandinavia and didn't realize he was paying an extra daily resort at his Collins Avenue hotel.

"I didn't see it. If you don't know, it’s a nasty surprise." Anderson said.

Websites like www.resortfeechecker.com have popped up so those planning a vacation can do their homework. Additionally, a bill introduced to Congress in September by Rep. Eddie Johnson, D-Texas, aims to make the fees more transparent.

The Federal Trade Commission, the US government organization with authority to regulate the hotel industry, says the fees are not illegal as long as they're disclosed.

According to published reports, 47 attorneys general began an investigation into the practice of hotel resort fees in May 2016.

"Just be transparent about it," Ramudo said. "When you quote a hotel rate it should include a total price. "It should include the resort fee if it’s included so you can compare."

"It's gonna hurt (South Florida’s tourism),” Jim Grady, from Buffalo, said.


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