Small letters = big dollars

The New York Times notes how hotels are jumping on to the “fine print” bandwagon pioneered by airlines.

The author of the Times article notes that he had to cancel a booking at a hotel in Aspen, Colo only to be told that the entire two nights stay he had paid in advance was non-refundable. The hotel’s reservation procedure had forewarned him and the penalty clause was in “fine print” on the second page of his reservation. The hotel in question was an upscale hotel and, as the author notes, hotels in the mid-market segment have relatively painless (and costless) cancellation policies. The article quotes a Mr.Joe Brancatelli, who publishes the business travel Web site Joesentme.com who said that some “hotels had become more aggressive in adding extra charges. Hotels saw the airlines getting away with it, and they’re just doing what airlines do”. And the Times rightly notes that “Airlines, of course, have been raising or adding fees, including fees for changing an advance-purchase restricted ticket”.

The latter’s tactics include a range of arguably misleading add-ons such as a $20-50 fee for calling their toll-free number, cancellation fees that many times equal the discounted fare. Others clubbed as catch-all taxes, fees and surcharges (typically fuel) often times add up to a two-thirds of the “fare”. It is little wonder that service in airlines has proven to be none too popular with their customers and in emulating an industry that has historically exemplified service at its worst, hotels run the risk of garnering short term gains that likely will result in long term pain.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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