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Updated Sep 3, 2014 - 10:03 am

Big fees becoming the norm at top Valley hotels

In this Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014 photo, people wait in line to check into the Bellagio, in Las Vegas. This year, hotels will take in a record $2.25 billion in revenue from fees and surcharges, 6 percent more than in 2013 and nearly double that of a decade ago, according to a new study. Nearly half of the increase can be attributed to new surcharges and hotels increasing the amounts of existing fees. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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