A Skift scoop: Hilton told hotel owners it was changing policy to ensure mandatory resort fees are displayed upfront on all its sites and apps. The move follows Marriott and Hyatt's similar steps this year.
Skift Global Forum was held in New York City on September 26-28, 2023. Read coverage of the event at the link below.
Hilton said on Thursday that it would “quickly” act to “ensure mandatory fees are displayed upfront on all Hilton websites and apps.”
Hilton made the comments on Thursday in a letter to U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Jerry Moran — co-sponsors of legislation to create a standard for mandatory fee display for hotels and short-term rentals. Hilton announced in the letter it now supports this legislation. (See letter, embedded below.)
In August, Marriott took similar action in response to a lawsuit by Washington, D.C.’s attorney general. Marriott now discloses upfront mandatory resort fees when an online shopper first sees prices through a search on the company’s sites and apps. Hyatt made a similar move in July.
Hilton’s Resort Fee Reversal
The senators in July introduced a bipartisan bill known as the Hotel Fees Transparency Act, which would address the issue of hidden resort fees for hotel stays.
“It requires that the cost of the rooms be there up front. Transparency, full disclosure. So you know exactly what you’re getting into,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Hilton notably says in its letter to the U.S. senators that it endorses “a single standard for mandatory fee display.”
That’s mainly because — it said in the letter to senators — it wants third-party booking platforms, such as price-comparison tools like Google, Kayak, and Skyscanner, and online travel agencies such as Booking.com and Expedia, to participate.
Hilton wants a level playing field in online competition so that consumers aren’t seeing misleadingly cheaper rates on third-party sites.
Online travel agencies have also been under the spotlight of regulators and states attorneys general. For instance, Texas’ attorney general last month filed a lawsuit against Booking Holdings, alleging that it violates state law by not including a variety of fees when it initially displays room prices in many cases.
Hilton also hopes to avoid a potential patchwork of state-based approaches. Last week, California lawmakers passed bills that — if Governor Gavin Newsom supports it— would require operators of hotels within the state to fully disclose all fees and charges upfront as of July 2024.
Hilton’s endorsement of fee transparency comes in the context of legal pressure, too. In May, the Texas Attorney General sued Hilton, alleging that the company’s disclosure of hotel room costs and an alleged pattern of forcing mandatory fees violated its laws. A change in Hilton’s policy ought to help put an end to that lawsuit.
UPDATE Sept. 22: Travelers United, an advocacy group, filed on Thursday a class action against Hilton over the mandatory fee display.
Why Junk Fees Matter
As Skift has noted before: Disclosing fees is important. When they are disclosed is important as well. Do it at the end of the process, and the buyer may be surprised by the true cost. A delay prevents a traveler from easy comparison shopping.
That’s one reason why talk about so-called junk fees has grown louder this year, with President Joe Biden mentioning hotel resort fees during his State of the Union address in January.
See Hilton President and CEO Christopher Nassetta on stage next week at Skift Global Forum in New York City.
Here’s Hilton’s letter to the senators below:
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Photo credit: Embassy Suites by Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Resort charges a resort fee. Source: Hilton.