Resort fees feel like they’ve always been a part of Las Vegas. After all, they’re present at most casino resorts throughout Sin City.
Once upon a time, though, these fees didn’t exist. Vegas resorts only got greedy after seeing the rest of the hospitality industry tack on these fees.
I’m going to cover exactly when Las Vegas decided to begin charging resort fees. I’ll also discuss if the situation is likely to get better or worse in the coming years.
History of Resort Fees
As you may know, resort fees refer to charges that hotels level after the stay. They don’t appear on your booking fee but rather when you go to check out.
You used to not need to worry about these additional costs. Instead, casinos were upfront with every fee through the initial booking fee.
In 1997, however, hotels in tourism hot spots like L.A. and New York began adding “surcharges.” They used surcharges to make booking costs appear cheaper and still get paid for offering amenities.
Initially, these bogus charges were reserved for fancy hotels that offered lavish swimming pools and fitness centers. However, more hotels began adding surcharges.
The hospitality industry eventually realized that they weren’t winning customers over with additional costs. So, surcharges disappeared in the early 2000s.
Other industries, though, including car rentals and airlines, began requiring extra fees. Subsequently, hotels became emboldened again and rolled out “resort fees” in place of the extinct surcharges.
By the mid-2000s, more tourism destinations were experimenting with charging for amenities during checkout. Eventually, resort fees became commonplace throughout many popular cities.
Why Did Hotels Begin Charging These Fees?
Hotels argue that they require resort fees to pay for the amenities they offer. While this is true to a degree, they’re actually trying to disguise the true price of their services.
Unlike with surcharges, hotels have successfully gotten away with resort fees. Casinos from Paris to Vegas now require such charges.
You won’t find a single hotel room on the Las Vegas Strip that doesn’t come with resort fees. Even some budget motels throughout Sin City have gotten into the act.
Vegas is far from the only famous spot that charges resort fees. L.A. Miami, New York, and San Francisco are examples of other cities that largely require these charges.
When Did Las Vegas Join the Act?
As mentioned before, Sin City didn’t start the trend of charging resort fees. However, it has become the poster child for this ugly movement in hospitality.
Station Casinos was the first Vegas casino corporation to roll out extra charges beyond booking. Dubbed “fuel surcharges,” these fees covered phone service (landline), the swimming pool, gym access, and more.
The Hilton, Starwood, and Wyndham chains also joined in this matter. By 2004, though, all of these chains faced a class-action lawsuit for their surcharges.
A judge ruled against the casinos due to the hidden nature of the fees. Hilton, Starwood, Station, and Wyndham had to collectively send almost 1 million comp coupons to guests who stayed with them between 2001 and 2004.
This lawsuit didn’t necessarily scare casinos off from tacking on additional charges, though. Instead, other Vegas resorts joined the act while trying to be a little more forthcoming.
Sin City as a whole saw fewer visitors by the late 2000s. This point marked the Great American Recession—a time when the average consumer began cutting out expensive Vegas trips.
Casinos turned to resort fees as a clever way to make more money. Rather than giving guests the option to pay for a pool pass or Wi-Fi, they began forcing these services upon customers.
By 2013, every company that owned hotel properties on the Vegas Strip required resort fees. This situation has now become the status quo.
Why Vegas Resort Fees Are Loathed
Nobody likes paying more for a hotel room. However, Vegas visitors hate resort fees for the specific reasons covered below.
Casinos want to appear to charge a lower rate than their competitors. As a result, they offer the booking fee upfront and the resort charge afterward.
The latter’s cost varies based on the casino. On average, though, resort fees add around 20-25% to the final bill.
Vegas veterans are well-versed with paying resort charges. However, new visitors may be shocked when another $30 to $50 shows up on their bill.
Unfortunately, casinos have learned a lot since the days when resorts got hit with class-action lawsuits. They now thoroughly cover resort fees in the terms and conditions.
They Are Mandatory
Land-based casinos don’t care whether or not you lift weights at their gym or use one of their conference rooms. They’re going to charge you for these services regardless.
You may go through your bill at the end and see that you’ve been charged for a fax machine. The latter is ridiculous when considering that most people don’t send faxes today.
Nevertheless, casinos like charging for anything that you might use. You’re fully expected to pay these fees too.
They Are On the Rise
I mentioned earlier that every Vegas Strip resort tacks on resort fees. However, other parts of the city are slowly getting into the mix too.
Downtown, Henderson, Summerlin, and the Boulder Strip are seeing more hotels go the resort-fee route.
Luckily, you can still find some resorts that are void of these charges. But don’t be surprised if, eventually, all of Sin City hits you with fees at checkout.
Do You Have to Pay Resort Fees?
Many countries have laws against requiring additional fees after booking. Unfortunately, the US isn’t one of these countries.
No law prohibits a Las Vegas casino from charging resort fees. As long as a resort lays out all potential costs in the terms and conditions, then they’re not doing anything illegal.
Therefore, you have to pay any additional costs within reason. You can’t just tell a resort that you didn’t know there would be extra charges included either.
They expect you to pay full price regardless of if you knew the deal going in. Assuming you still resist, they’ll merely point to their carefully crafted T&Cs.
Why These Fees Are Here to Stay
Many people insist that Sin City visitors “vote with their feet” and refuse to stay anywhere with resort fees. However, this same crowd will soon find that they have very few other options.
The original motivation for most of Vegas charging resort fees was the 2007-09 recession. Hotels needed a way to squeeze more revenue out of existing customers.
MGM, for example, could increase resort fees by $5 per guests and make an extra $50 million annually.
Casinos will still rely on the same argument that they need to get paid for their amenities. They supply the Wi-Fi, coffee machines, and pool, so they want extra from guests.
Furthermore, resort charges save casinos money on what they pay third-party booking sites. Vegas hotels pay commissions to Expedia, Travelocity, etc.
However, they only need to cover commissions on the booking costs. Resort fee are a clever way to reduce the size of these commissions.
Las Vegas was once thoroughly transparent with its hotel booking charges. You paid for what you saw.
However, Sin City has totally gone the way of resort fees. Vegas resorts began requiring fees after the fact in the early 2000s.
This movement increased in the late 2000s following the recession. Today, most Las Vegas hotels require resort fees.
The reality is that resort fees aren’t going away anytime soon and the costs are likely to increase even further over the next few years.