Hotels Mimicking Airlines With Extraneous New Fees – Business Continuity Professionals Take Note!

Is the hotel industry taking it too far with new fees for everything from checking in early to a surcharge for that room safe whether you use it or not?  And if you’re traveling on the company dime, should you even care?  Even if you don’t, your company sure should and whomever they designate to keep up with these trends in order to address them in your contracts better realize that we’re talking about a LOT of money on the table.

10500It’s yet another benefit of creating your own standardized contract to present to hotels for any travel related to BC/DR, a concept familiar to anyone who’s seen one of my presentations, especially if you’re talking about a deployment of a group or groups of employees.  Otherwise, you can add these fees to the 60+ negotiable items that are already in a standard hotel’s group booking contract and have to be rehashed separately with each hotel you select.  And if you’re smart and spread your risk by contracting with not just one but multiple hotels, that translates to a whole lot of extra work for you.  Oh, and you’ll have to do that immediately pre-deployment when you have a gazillion other things competing for your time and attention.  Yikes!

For example, let’s say you have 75 rooms contracted at a hotel that charges $10/night for high speed internet access, an amount that’s actually on the low end.  Assuming you didn’t negotiate comp wifi for your employees at the outset (which you should have), that’s another $750/day for what you can do at Starbucks for free.  Too insignificant an amount?  Say you’re there for 2 weeks.  That makes it $10,500, which is a whole lot more than zero.  Gets your attention, doesn’t it?  Now think about all the other charges you might not foresee and you can see how quickly this compounds.  Better yet, assuming a charge of $149 per room night, see the tabulation below of new extra fees that could add another $100K to a hotel bill that already exceeds $150,000 . . . excluding taxes.

Photo: Traders Hotel

Photo: Traders Hotel

And yes, this is already happening.  Continuity Housing Global Account Executive Stacey Sabiston notes, “We’ve started to notice that some previous ‘optional’ or ‘at your discretion’ fees have started to become mandatory at some properties – maid gratuities and bellman gratuities to name a few.  Some properties are now adding a ‘VAT’ (value added tax) to the room rate which covers some of the formerly free hotel amenities such as the fitness center, daily newspaper, pool towels, etc.  One of the island properties we deal with charges a ‘daily service fee’ of 10% to cover porterage, housekeeping and front of house gratuities in addition to a $20 per room coastal protection levy – that’s the first time I’ve seen that one!  Many of the groups we’re booking for also have outdoor dinner events and functions and for those I’ve seen additional labor or setup fees being tacked on such as $15.00 per person or a flat setup fee for outdoor events.”

no-mini-barAs for invoices, they’re already a nightmare what with people leaving their assigned hotel to go somewhere else willy nilly, hotel front desk agents not knowing (and crediting you properly for) the concessions in your contract, charges that should have posted to an individual being posted to your organization’s master account instead, leaving you to collect on the back end from your employee – and it won’t be just the one employee . . .  The list goes on.  And who’s going to audit all this stuff to make sure you’re not getting the proverbial short end of the stick?

So what can you do?  For starters you can put the onus on the hotel.  In your contract boilerplate (which someone in your organization has created with your best interests in mind and which has been vetted by the powers that be), include a section called “Miscellaneous Charges” and leave it blank for the hotels to complete.  They must name each category of miscellaneous charges that will be in effect during the dates of your stay.  And if it’s not in the contract, then it’s not on your bill.  Unfortunately, parking lot fees usually aren’t negotiable.

Another thing you can do is set up a direct billing account with each hotel you’re working with.  Even if you plan to pay with a credit card, I strongly advise you to take this extra step.  If you have direct billing, it means that the hotel will invoice you and you will be able to audit that invoice before paying.  Without that, the hotel will charge your credit card the amount that they believe is correct and any billing discrepancies you find become more of a hassle and more time consuming.  Not necessary!  The mantra of superior business continuity planning is “Prepare and drill.  Do it again.  No surprises.”  Addressing this issue from the get-go is the only way to prevent these charges from creeping up on us during an event.

Have you been hit with charges like these?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.

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