What lawsuit? Marriott is under the microscope in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. While Marriott is the target of a recent lawsuit, it has ramification for all hotels, large and small. In fact, this suit (win, lose, or draw) will usher in a new era of pricing transparency with hotels worldwide for US citizens.
In the most basic sense, Marriott is being sued for deceptively charging guests for a “resort fee.” We all hate this fee ever since it appeared back after 9-11. But we all came to accept it. And now, Marriott is being called to task. It is anyone’s guess what will happen. Will consumers be entitled to a refund? Additional rewards points? Nothing?
Time will tell on that front, but I can guarantee that any sanctions or fines will be borne by the consumer in the form of increased rates or (more likely) ancillary fees. While the “resort fee” is vague at best, the price to access the gym…park…drink that bottle of water in the minibar…room service…towel service…dry cleaning…is all very clear. And if I had to bet, these are the fees that will increase to replace the resort fee.
Why? If a hotel is to increase the base nightly rate, they most likely will be sorted lower on the screen for a consumer online booking site and the GDS used by professionals. As we know, that top position is coveted. It only makes sense to maintain the base price and increase parking from $20 to $50 per night or to begin to implement a $25 per day gym fee. Granted, these amenities are not used by all guests, so they likely will be steeper for those guests that actually do use them. And I suspect that those guests may complain less about it than the resort fee.
So what does this mean to you? As a professional, if it comes to fruition, you will need to make sure that your clients are aware. Have you ever flown on Allegiant or Spirit? You know what I mean—the airfare is very attractive, and then you need to pay for an advanced seat assignment, to check any bags, to carry on a bag, to get an aisle or window seat, for a soft drink, and on and on. In the end, you may have been better off flying a legacy carrier. This is what the hotel industry may become after this suit is settled. Make sure your client realizes this. It may be a great deal if they are not using any of the amenities; but if they are, they may be in for a shock. Just make them aware.
And why is the lawsuit picking on Marriott? One can only speculate, but my guess is that if you go fishing, you go for the big fish and the rest will fall in line. Marriott is by far, the largest hotel brand in terms of actual rooms. The chain has more than 1.3 million rooms with Hilton Worldwide in a distant second with just shy of 900,000.
Just some food for thought!