What’s a Daily Destination Fee? Here’s what you need to know

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By Christopher Elliott

Jason Scheff wants to know what a surprise Daily Destination Fee is on his Marriott hotel bill. I’ve been getting a lot of similar complaints about this new fee and tracking it closely, so let’s take a minute to explore this new surcharge.

The mandatory Daily Destination Fee is a strain of the unpopular resort fee that’s showing up in some urban full-service hotels. Marriott is defending this $25 per day fee as a convenience for its guests. But customers say the surcharge, tacked on to your room rate after the initial rate quote, is effectively a hidden price increase.

You need to know about this new way of pricing hotels before you book your next stay in New York. There’s a good chance the Daily Destination Fee could spread to other urban markets, so be on the lookout for it. (Related: These hotel amenities are obsolete.)

Dissecting the Daily Destination Fee

Scheff, a frequent Marriott guest, has stayed at several Marriott properties in Manhattan since the beginning of the year. He usually books his rooms at a government rate.

“I never saw this fee until I booked a stay for personal travel on points at the JW Marriott Essex House,” he says. “Once I did that, I saw the fee, and I contacted the Essex House.”

Here’s the response he received:

We here at the JW Essex House recently received communication from our Customer Care Division regarding your inquiry about the new destination fee.

We strive to make sure our guests have a “FLAWLESS” stay as we want you to feel like this is your home away from home. And we know you could have chosen any hotel to stay at and you chose ours so we “Thank You” for being a loyal Marriott/Starwood guest.

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

I can certainly understand your frustrations as we here at the JW Marriott Essex House strive to be the best we can be in the service industry.

As of January 1st, 2018 Marriott International implemented the $25 per day destination fee for the New York City market and all Marriott and Starwood properties have this in place.

Our Destination Fee includes thoughtful upgrades carefully curated to enhance you [sic] stay in New York City.

· $25 Food & Beverage Credit to be used in Southgate Restaurant and or In Room Dining

· Admission for (2) to Central Park Zoo and or (1) Cycle Class at CYC Fitness

· $30 Hotel Spa Credit and or $30 Laundry Credit

· Enhanced Wi-Fi / Local & Long Distance Calls

· A Central Park Tour: Self-guided through our specially curated website: http://essexhouseexplorer.com/

What does that mean?

“That response made zero sense to me,” he says. “So I replied with the following.”

Just to clarify, I am not currently staying at the hotel. Rather, I booked a reservation and I see this $25 addition on it.

I am confused by what you are saying, however. It sounds like what you are saying is that I can ask to have this fee removed. But you are also making it seem like this is a one-time thing and that I should expect this fee in the future. Please advise. And please confirm I can have this fee removed from this reservation.

You’re telling me that as of January 1st, Marriott has implemented a $25 per day fee at all Marriott and Starwood hotels in New York City. However, so far this year, I have had four different stays at four different Marriott properties in NYC (including a stay at the Essex House in January), and I have never been charged this fee.

I also have several future reservations at various NYC Marriott properties, and again, none of these reservations include this fee. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I would appreciate it if you would check your facts and get back to me. Thank you.

The hotel’s response

Below you will find a list of those properties who [sic] are currently included in the New York market that have implanted [sic] this and by the end of 2018 all Marriott properties in the New York City market will have this implanted [sic].

As I have stated I will be more than happy to have this removed from current reservation but moving forward there will be a $25 per day destination fee that will be applied to future reservations.

Below are the properties who are currently included with the $25 destination fee …

· Marriott East Side

· Renaissance Time Square

· W Time Square

· New York Marquis

· Westin Time Square

· The Westin Time Square

· Westin New York

· The Lexington

· Sheraton New York

· Algonquin

· Marriott Downtown

· Marriott Brooklyn Bridge

· JW Essex House

As I stated I will be more than happy to remove the destination fee as a one-time courtesy but moving forward it will be applied to any upcoming reservations who [sic] are included. Again you will see the $25 destination fee on future reservations where Marriott properties will have this on your confirmation page of your email and online at the time of booking.

Marriott corporate responds

That made even less sense to Scheff, so he emailed Marriott corporate. Here’s how it explained the new Daily Destination Fee:

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to Marriott Customer Care today. I am sorry if the Daily Destination fee caught you by surprise.

The daily destination fee is becoming more common in large cities worldwide. It helps cover the costs of different amenities or services the guest has the choice to use during their stay and vary from property to property, similar to a Resort Charge. Guests are advised of this fee prior to finalizing a reservation made over the phone, on Marriott.com or the mobile app. I apologize for any inconvenience the fee may cause.

To determine which of these hotels will implement the destination fee, you will need to contact the hotels that would be in your future itinerary.

I hope that you enjoy your stay in New York.

Scheff is still unhappy with the responses.

“I’m wondering how much of this is true given how inconsistently this fee seems to be applied and also given the contradictory and ostensibly false information I’ve been given in response,” he says.

So what’s a Daily Destination Fee?

Marriott just confirmed that the fees, which were introduced almost a year ago as part of a pilot program, have become permanent.

The Daily Destination Fee is clever because it allows the hotel to claim guests are getting more. One executive estimated that the “value” of the perks exceeds $100 — while at the same time raising room rates. If you don’t pay attention to the fine print, you might think this is a legitimate charge. It isn’t. (Here’s how to contact the CEO directly.)

The economics of this are simple. Because consumers control the rates they pay, big urban hotels like the Marriott can’t raise rates. So they have to fool you into paying more. They do that by quoting you an initial low rate — the one you expect to pay — and then dinging you at the end of the booking process with an “oh-by-the-way” mandatory Daily Destination Fee. (Related: Eurostar canceled my train and left us stranded in London.)

And they call it a Daily Destination Fee because they know guests are on the lookout for resort fees, and they think changing the name will somehow make it acceptable.

An unfair fee

Of course, nothing about this dishonest fee is acceptable. It is an unfair and deceptive practice from start to finish. The hotel industry should be ashamed of itself, having to lie its way into increasing its profit.

My advice? If you see a Daily Destination Fee, complain. Here are the executive contacts at Marriott. Don’t hold back!

Dispute the Daily Destination Fee on your credit card, if necessary. Bury the hotel in paperwork by fighting the charges. Or better yet, don’t book any of these lying hotels. It’s the only way to send a message to them that this behavior is unacceptable.

And please let me know how hotels respond to you. I think my readers will be most interested.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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