Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

ASK JOURNEYS: Travellers irked by hotels' additional fees

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While some sunspot flights will continue through April, for the most part this coming week will signal the end of the season for most tour operators.

There usually is somewhat of a soft travel period in April before Europe and other exotic destinations around the world take over the spotlight.

This week's travel questions, however, related more to travel accommodations than they did to destinations.

QUESTION: Last fall I started looking at hotel prices for a trip to Asia. In looking for them again today, I found that for the same hotels I researched last year, the prices had risen. Is this a trend that I will have to face in these and other travels going forward?

ANSWER: The rise and fall in the price of hotel rooms around the world over the past year has varied by region and location.

The average prices in Asia rose only two per cent last year, which pretty much keeps within the bounds of inflation.

However, the Pacific region increased prices by four per cent overall, while North America outperformed most other regions, from a hotelier point of view, with average increases of five points.

While the worldwide increase was three per cent over the year, there are bargains to be had in Europe and the Middle East, which actually registered small drops in average room rates.

Canadians spent more on domestic hotel accommodations, with an increase of $6 per night stay, as the average rate increased to $150 from $144 the year before.

QUESTION: I have become frustrated with what I consider to be a ripoff by hotels that charge ridiculous amounts to log on to their Wi-Fi systems, while other properties that are in lower categories offer the service for free. I don't mind paying the extra price for a better-quality hotel, but it is hard to take when others who travel that I know are getting free coffee, breakfast and wi-fi.

ANSWER: One of the major online websites, hotels.com, just released the results of a survey they undertook with travellers who frequent hotels often.

They were trying to measure what expectations these guests had from the properties they stayed in and chose to frequent most often.

Interestingly, free Wi-Fi was at the top of the list. It was the number one factor for more than a third of those surveyed.

It was a prime influence for those who actually booked hotel stays in these free Wi-Fi properties, but additionally, across the board fully 70 per cent expressed the wish Wi-Fi would become complimentary at the places they stayed.

Most are especially unhappy with the level of fees charged for this service, considering the low input cost required to provide it to guests.

Often, conferences and large business meetings are able to negotiate free Wi-Fi for their group, yet the individual traveller has no way of avoiding these fees.

Some loyalty programs have included free Wi-Fi as a benefit, depending upon the client's annual room nights.

Clients dislike the exorbitant prices of drinks in the min-bar, feeling it too is a ripoff. Knowing the mini-bar prices are way too high, clients will often step out of the property to enjoy a comfortable environment in a nearby bar or restaurant.

From a Canadian perspective, close to a third of respondents believe the so-called turn-down service is hype and likely adds to the cost of the hotel room.

What is important to travellers at all levels is the availability of an in-room coffee or tea maker. Not only do they want coffee but they prefer it to be of a quality brand that ensures the same taste they would get at an off-property coffee shop.

Hoteliers seem to have gotten this one right, as a high percentage of properties seem to be providing this option as a standard room amenity.

Where the higher-end properties have taken a lead that, apparently, Canadians really appreciate, is the introduction of designer toiletries and other luxury amenities.

Finally, perhaps indicating a change in our improving lifestyles, there is a high expectation for a good fitness centre in the hotel, with an increasing trend towards hotels that also offer a range of spa services.

QUESTION: I travel often on business to tourist areas and have become appalled by the number of hotels that charge a resort fee to stay at their property. I don't use any of the so-called resort facilities and even if I did I think it is an unfair charge. Is this an expanding trend and how can one get around it?

ANSWER: Even though they insist they disclose the resort fee in the confirmation emails they send to clients, resort fees have become the insidious hidden costs being foisted on unsuspecting travellers.

While you will find the fee stated in some part of that confirmation document, it is frequently woven in many of the other terms and conditions.

The only way around it is to stay in downtown business-oriented hotels.

Las Vegas properties have become notorious for adding large fees. This will only be stopped when a high percentage of clients protest. But so far, those voices have not been loud enough and the trend continues.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 D2

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