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Big fees becoming the norm at top Valley hotels

PHOENIX — We’ve seen them for years: Airlines have been keeping fares lower while charging fees for baggage and other things to make money.

Hotels are now following in the airlines’ footsteps. People are booking more deals on travel websites and, because of that, hotels have to keep their rates low to stay competitive. But how do they make money while keeping rates low? They charge fees for amenities customers may take for granted.

This year is looking like a record-breaker when it comes to resort charges. A new study by New York University said the hotel industry will receive an additional $2.25 billion in revenue thanks to the fees.

Louie Thiele of KTAR’s “The Travel Show” said hotels will charge guests extra for things like Internet, access to the fitness facility and even a towel at the swimming pool.

“The hotels make about an 80 to 90 percent profit on these fees,” said Thiele. “In other words, what they deliver for the money costs them very little.”

While the fees are showing up at more hotels, it seems the industry is working to keep them under wraps.

“These hotels are having to be very creative about what they name the fees,” said Thiele.

He said some hotels have a resort fee, while others call extra charges by another name. The Golden Nugget hotel in Las Vegas, for example, has something called the “downtown fee.” Guests are charged the fee and given what amounts to a coupon book. If they don’t use the coupons, they’re basically paying for the right to stay in downtown Las Vegas near the Freemont Street Experience.

Las Vegas hotels are the norm, not the exception when it comes to the new fees. The “Policies and Fees” portion of the Arizona Biltmore’s website lists a $28 per room nightly resort fee in addition to the room rate. Guests also have to pay a “departure fee” if they leave before their scheduled departure date.

Checking out the Arizona Grand Resort on Expedia, KTAR found it charges a $40 per night fee to use the Internet, fitness center and parking lot.

Thiele said there may be ways to drop the resort charge, but it’s not a guarantee.

“When you make your reservation, be sure to ask ‘Is there a resort fee?’ If there is a fee, ‘Can I opt out of it?,'” Thiele suggested. “If you are really upset about it, tell the front desk that you are not going to use any of those services, and you would like to have the resort fee removed from your bill. Sometimes, you’ll be successful.”

Last year, downtown Phoenix faced a costly glut of rooms, with most hotels hitting an average 60 percent capacity. However, the city saw a notable uptick in March.