The results of a court settlement between Marriott International and the state of Pennsylvania in 2021 will begin this month to affect the way the hotel giant markets its properties.
The settlement requires Marriott to reveal the full price for guest rooms—inclusive of all fees—on its website and app as well as through call centers to make consumers aware of the full cost of their stay at the time of booking. After recently paying $225 million in penalties for failing to adhere to the 2021 ruling, Marriott has announced that it will be compliant by May 15.
The company issued a statement on May 1, saying: “Marriott International is committed to providing customers with clear and transparent pricing. We have long been focused on ensuring that any resort/destination fees charged by hotels are separately and clearly stated. We have been working diligently over the last several months on the technology required to update our room rate display and further enhance the way these fees are disclosed, in accordance with our agreement with the State of Pennsylvania. In fact, when we deploy our changes by May 15, 2023, we expect to be the first hospitality company to change its display, leading the industry on this important issue."
The resort fees and destination fees (also called a “facility fee,” “urban fee,” “amenity fee,” or simply a surcharge) aren’t going away. The changes simply provide transparency to the buyer.
For meeting professionals, it remains important to negotiate such fees when possible, and then to have a clause in the event contract listing all mandatory fees and saying that there can be no additional fees unless they are agreed to, in writing, in advance.
The new bundled-price policy could benefit planners whose attendees are urged, but not required, to book in a meeting’s room block. The pricing displayed by local Marriott properties not in the room block will no longer show guest-room rates without the fees, thus making the properties in the room block more attractive.
However, court’s requirements only apply to Marriott’s distribution channels. Online travel agencies, such as Expedia, will still be able to show rates that don’t include fees.
At this point, no other major hotel company or online travel agency has announced that it will change its pricing-display policies. However, after Marriott’s settlement, fine, and decision to change how fees are disclosed, observers believe that other brands may follow suit before states pursue them for deceptive practices.
At the end of the first quarter 2023, Marriott International had nearly 8,400 properties in its system around the world, as well as 1,018 properties under construction.