New York hotels now slugging travellers "urban destination fees"

By Chris Chamberlin, February 21 2018
New York hotels now slugging travellers

Many business and leisure travellers trekking to New York City are now finding extra fees tacked onto their hotel bill, described by some chains as an “urban destination charge”, and by others as either a “mandatory destination fee” or a “daily destination fee”.

Costing US$25-50 per night, these new charges mimic hotel ‘resort fees’ as levied in other destinations like Hawaii, which are billed in addition to the nightly room rate.

Read: How to beat those annoying hotel 'resort fees' in the USA

What’s more, when booking a hotel room online, these fees are seldom included in the advertised price, which makes it hard for travellers to compare the total cost of one hotel stay to another.

For example, when searching for a room in mid-March, we found the New York Hilton Midtown hotel advertising rooms for US$382/night via the Hilton website…

… yet only after clicking through to the next screen is the property’s “urban destination charge” revealed – but this still isn’t included in the room price displayed.

You’ll only see the full details by clicking on a specific room rate, which is also where the cost of any applicable taxes and other charges are hidden, as these aren’t included in the advertised price either, as is (unfortunately) standard practice in the United States:

Suddenly, the room you thought would cost US$382 (A$482) per night has suddenly jumped to US$470.74 (A$593), “urban destination charge” included.

Other prominent chains like Hyatt and Marriott also list these fees in a similar way, via a small alert at the top of the initial booking screen when the compulsory fee isn’t accounted for in the price being advertised…

… with a total price shown later during the booking process which includes all unavoidable fees and taxes:

Starwood Hotels and Resorts is arguably more upfront about these charges than the other chains – even though such fees aren’t mentioned on the first page of the booking process where a traveller can compare lead-in prices at different hotels…

… the brand’s “destination fee” (along with applicable taxes) are clearly indicated on the next screen where the traveller can choose their room and rate – not later in the process once this selection has already been made:

Well, what do I get for paying hotel destination fees?

Like the more common hotel resort fees, these new hotel “destination fees” offer some inclusions to help justify the price: often beginning with complimentary Internet during your stay, along with free calls from the in-room phone.

However, it always pays to read the fine print, as the policy at each hotel varies.

At the New York Hilton Midtown hotel where a US$25/day “urban destination charge” applies, that free Internet is limited to three devices only – and while there’s a US$25/day food and beverage credit included to ‘offset’ this fee, the credit can only be used to buy US$10 worth of food per day from one venue, and US$15 worth of beverages from a separate venue at the hotel each day.

Other properties are more generous with their inclusions, such as the W New York Times Square where a similar US$25/day “mandatory destination fee” now applies, which buys free local, long-distance and international calls from the in-room phone, free Internet, a US$25/day bar credit, a US$20/day laundry credit and also a museum ticket or a gym pass.

How to avoid paying these hotel destination fees

While the hotels describe these fees as compulsory or mandatory, you may be able to avoid paying them by selecting a rate that includes a fee waiver.

For instance, at the New York Hilton Midtown on the dates we searched, we found that the basic flexible rate for an entry-level room (a ‘deluxe room two beds’) had an overall price of US$484.30: urban destination charge included.

However, a separate ‘exec lounge access’ rate for the same room on the same nights was selling for US$486.60, including taxes but with no $25/night charge to be paid.

While that’s still US$2.30/night higher than the total cost of the standard flexible rate, you’d get access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge during your stay, including complimentary daily breakfast, coffee throughout the day and evening nibbles: and if you were going to stay at the property anyway, it’d make sense to pay that little bit extra, while still avoiding the usual US$25/day fee.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 150

Such crooks! Who do they think they are?! Even more reason to not go there.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 598

It's enough BS that they hide the taxes for every price shown in 'murica...Just be glad we live in a country where hiding these fees in such a manner is illegal


01 Jun 2016

Total posts 33

What a timing .....I just stayed at the NY Hilton Midtown last week. If you are a coffee or Tea lover ....U will skip it. Either taste awful or not strong enough. I think this is a North America thing as they give Diamond membership like candies (I am HH Diamond), you need to buy alcohol whereas in Asia, UK etc it is included. The breakfast choice is good but not great. The choice of food is minimal for the $10 and $15 to offset $25 charge but if you drink alcohol a drink or two could offset the charge. They have 15% tip included in the final bill (mandatory). My mate bought a beer for 7.50 with a final bill around 10.4 something (15% tip and 18% NY tax). You need to factor a lot of cost if you are on a holiday with budget. Please lower your expectation with regards to lounges in North America since the Toronto Hilton lounge was non existant


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

I've just looked at under NYC NY hotels and some list what the additional fee is or say its included in the price. Hotel prices are never cheap in NYC, and my favorite is now charging $35 extra per night for the Refrigerator.... (Unbelievable. ) Haven't been in a while, and don't think I'll be back in a hurry. Pay Pay Pay, welcome to the USA!!! Is this new fee applicable to other places beside NYC and Hawaii?

'Resort fees' are very common at hotels in Las Vegas, too, and have been for years. The Bellagio, for example, has a US$39/day 'resort fee' which only gets you high-speed Internet (which is free anyway at most other hotels), free local calls (which could only cost you maybe $1 to make if roaming, if not less), access to the gym (which hotels provide free in most other countries), and free boarding pass printing (which you probably don't need as you can just save a boarding pass to your phone these days).

I'll admit the WiFi was indeed very fast when I stayed there, but A$50/day for the privilege is pretty excessive, and I wouldn't stay there again.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

Just another reason to use Airbnb. Why stay in a hotel when you can get a bigger, better apartment in the neighbourhood of your choice? Midtown is an absolute hellhole.


27 Jul 2016

Total posts 11

half the price, acres of space, self-contained and no hidden fees

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

Yeah, it is a hotelier's response to OTA's upping their commission to 17% or 25%. Hotels can be commissioned on the room rate but not the 'destination fee'. It pretty annoying for customers and I reckon one day we'll see people flogging $1 rooms online with a $400 'destination fee'.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 131

When can we expect a "plumbing fee", an "elevator fee" or maybe a "breathing air surcharge"??

No "breathing air surcharges" just yet, but many hotels do try to lock down how cold you can make the air conditioner to save money on electricity, even if it means the room is too hot for you to be comfortable. Fortunately, you can often override their temperature settings: Hotel room too hot or too cold? Hack the air conditioning controller!

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 131

Reminds me of a less than pleasant few nights at the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Terminal in NYC. Room was a sauna from winter heating, windows could not be opened. No ability to run cooling a/c according to management because the system had been "switched over" to heat until April. So much for "climate controlled".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 38

Another thing with these destination fees, not sure if it's the case with all chains but, I've seen them charge it on points redemption. Sort of like the hotel version of a fuel surcharge, where you think you're getting a free flight/accommodation, until you get to the final screen and find all the other miscellaneous charges and taxes added on. Hotels used to be better than airlines but I guess they're all following the same lead now.

19 May 2015

Total posts 22

The ACCC describes this as "drip pricing"

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

We're not in Kansas anymore.

19 May 2015

Total posts 22

The point was that the practice does not seem to be anywhere near as prevalent in Australia. The ACCC seems to be reasonably vigilant on this particular tactic.

The US consumer agencies seem not to care.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2014

Total posts 12

I’m happy to avoid destinations with these charges.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 41

Plus ca change... When I used to rotate through NYC on working trips the company always kept my time there to the minimum because the room rates were ridiculous, and insisted that I fly out to the next city (usually Chicago) on Fridays or Saturday because NYC hotels all boosted their rates even further at the weekend. Ah, memories of rooms so small the bed took up nearly all the space, and bathrooms that you couldn't fall over in because you hit the wall - lol.

13 Jan 2017

Total posts 1

Does anyone know if this includes the boroughs? Brooklyn? Perhaps there's a "borough destination charge" as well!!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

31 Jan 2013

Total posts 26

Not to mention you pretty much have to tip every hotel employee that looks at you twice in the US, so add another $10-$15 a day in tips. If you want good concierge service, expect that figure to blow out.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2015

Total posts 78

I'm heading to the US for a holiday in May. I'm currently working out the itinerary and the cost to stay at 4-5 star hotels are astronomical, particularly as I haven't had good experiences in US hotels in the past. I don't want to pay $300+ a night to stay in a mediocre hotel. The lack of transparency in all these fees is a complete turnoff and I'm seriously considering booking flights to Mexico and spending most of the trip in Central America. These hotels need to be careful that they aren't too greedy or customers will start voting with their feet.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Feb 2018

Total posts 1

When I travel to NY City, I always stay in either Weehawken or Secaucus. Hotels normally under half the price of NY hotels and only 10 minute bus ride to Port Authority Bus Terminal between 40th and 42nd Streets. Both Weehawken and Secaucus have loads of restaurants to choose from and it’s heaps quieter and the pace is way slower compared to Times Square etc. My wife and I normally catch a bus over around 9 in the morning and catch a bus back around 9 in the evening after a full day of sightseeing. Then there is the awesome view from Weehawken across the river to NY as well.

30 Jun 2011

Total posts 50

Yep, Joisey definitely.

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