56°F
weather icon Clear

Nevada resort officials mum on new legislation on lodging fees

Updated September 27, 2019 - 10:20 pm

Bipartisan legislation that would make resort fees transparent in the advertising of hotel room rates was introduced in the U.S. House this week.

The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., would prohibit hotels and other short-term lodging establishments from advertising a room rate that does not include all required fees other than taxes and fees imposed by a government. The Federal Trade Commission, along with attorneys general from across the country, would have the ability to enforce the provision through the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The bill, introduced Thursday, is in response to soaring resort fees, mandatory daily charges added to a guest’s hotel bill to pay for incidentals such as fitness center access, in-room safes, newspapers and Wi-Fi, regardless of whether they use them.

Resorts nationwide have put the fees in place to recapture some of the costs associated with the amenities they provide. Some resort companies equate the practice to airlines charging extra for suitcases or carry-ons.

In Las Vegas, resort fees range from about $15 to $45 a night at some properties.

Officials from the office of Rep. Dina Titus did not return calls seeking comment about the bill. Titus, D-Nev., is the longest serving representative of Nevada’s congressional delegation, and her district includes Southern Nevada’s resort corridor, including the Strip and downtown Las Vegas. She is chairwoman of a Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.

Resort Association studying bill

A representative of the Nevada Resort Association said Friday that its executives have not fully reviewed the legislation and were not prepared to comment on its merits.

The association membership includes 59 Southern Nevada resorts and 12 from Northern Nevada.

The affiliated American Hotel & Lodging Association says on its website that resort fees are “not widespread.”

Earlier this year, executives with MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp., the operators with the most hotel rooms on the Strip, indicated they had no plans to change their resort fee policies. A representative of Las Vegas Sands Corp., operator of The Venetian and Palazzo, had no comment on its resort fees.

“We are certainly sensitive to the fact that we can hurt our own profitability and revenue growth if we get exorbitant or do things that have no value to them,” former Caesars CEO Mark Frissora told Wall Street analysts in February.

Efforts to reach resort officials late Friday were unsuccessful.

While the legislation proposed by Johnson and Fortenberry would not prohibit resort fees, it would require their disclosure on all advertising and pricing estimates.

“This summer, we witnessed a record number of Americans take the opportunity to travel,” Johnson, the lead sponsor, said in a release announcing introduction of the bill.

“Unfortunately, this also meant a record number of travelers were subjected to deceptive hidden fees charged by hotels, motels and other places of accommodation,” she said. “It is projected that in 2019, over $3 billion in revenue alone will be collected from consumers due to these hidden fees. Consumers should be able to enjoy their vacation without being ripped off and financially burdened. This bill would require that the prices advertised by hotels and online travel agencies must include all mandatory fees that will be charged to a consumer, excluding taxes.”

“I am pleased to support this legislation that will result in greater transparency for the traveling public,” Fortenberry added. “When travelers search for hotel options, they deserve to see straightforward prices. They should not get hit with hidden fees that are designed to confuse consumers and distort the actual price.”

Consumer groups on board

Consumer Reports and Travelers United are among the groups offering early support for the bill.

“Travelers shouldn’t have to read the fine print to figure out all the fees they’ll be charged for staying at a hotel,” said Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumer Reports. “Hotels should be required to disclose all fees in their advertised rate, so consumers won’t get stung with a higher bill than what they’re expecting to pay when booking a room.”

“The U.S. Congress is taking on the most hated fee in travel,” said Lauren Wolfe, counsel for Travelers United, a nonprofit travel advocacy group. “We urge Congress to support this bipartisan common-sense bill. It is important to note that this bill does not just cover mandatory fees for hotels, but it also will require that all fees are disclosed in the advertised rate for short-term rentals,” including Airbnb.

In July, attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Nebraska filed lawsuits against Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide, respectively, claiming they were hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and charging hidden resort fees to increase profits.

The Nebraska court filing said at least 79 Hilton properties — roughly 2 percent of the total — charge the fee.

Marriott, which has about 7,000 hotels under around 25 brands, says it does not comment on matters in litigation.

FTC warnings

In November 2012 and April 2013, the FTC warned 35 hotels and 11 online travel agents that resort fees were not adequately disclosed on their hotel reservation websites and that such practices may violate the law by misrepresenting the price consumers expected to pay for their hotel rooms. In response to those warning letters, many hotels and online travel agents modified their resort-fee disclosures. But consumer complaints about the disclosure of rates continue.

“If a fee is part of the total price consumers must pay for a hotel room, then it must be part of the price shown to consumers. Surprise fees are unfair to consumers, period,” said FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southern Nevada could set a new resale-price record in coming months.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes – the bulk of the market – was $310,000 in September. Before the economy crashed last decade, prices peaked in June 2006 at $315,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Walmart container park in Henderson - VIDEO
Henderson could be home to a container park associated with a Walmart Inc. initiative. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recession lessons could help Las Vegas face next slump - VIDEO
While the last economic downturn had a dramatic impact on local casinos, most experts expect the industry will be better able to weather the storm during the next recession. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM and victims of Oct. 1 reach settlement agreement - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International and lawyers representing potentially thousands of victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have reached a tentative settlement of between $735 million and $800 million. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
iPhone 11 Release
Local Las Vegas long time Apple product consumer shares her excitement for the new iPhone 11 release Downtown Summerlin. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lihi Levin talks about a mobil app Dropit - VIDEO
Lihi Levin, regional manager at Dropit Shopping, talks about a mobil app Dropit. The app lets customers leave their shopping bags at a store then have them delivered the same day to their home or hotel so they can shop without carrying multiple bags all day. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
THE LATEST