If you haven't decided on a New Year's resolution yet, here's one to consider. By all accounts, 2012 will be a good and perhaps great year for the hotel industry. You've heard it before: Business travelers are back, leisure guests never left, no new hotels are being built and the economy is limping slowly back to recovery. That should produce a year in which occupancies rise, rates continue to climb back and hotel owners realize a few more bucks of profit. Halleluiah!
This kind of positive turn of events can lead to a little greed and overreach by owners and operators. While it's been a tough four-plus years since the economy fell apart, and many bottom lines shrunk nearly to non-existence, it's not the time to treat your guests with anything but respect. That should be your resolution for the new year: no gouging, price manipulation, strong-arm tactics or any other practices that do anything but make your customers feel good about your hotel(s) and the lodging industry in general.
As you may have heard, starting on January 26, a new federal rule requires airlines to quote the full price of airline tickets in their advertising. That means, the advertised prices must include all non-optional fees and taxes, including fuel charges and the 9/11 security fee. Not surprisingly, most airlines are opposing the new rule as “arbitrary and capricious,” but it's probably a losing battle and one the airline industry (one of the least-trusted businesses in the country) shouldn't wage.
The lesson for the lodging industry is that hotels need to stop rate creep through the obnoxious trend toward so-called “resort” or “energy” fees. While hoteliers say the practice helps them compete more easily in tough markets, the actual effect of these often-hidden fees is to turn off existing customers and anyone else thinking of traveling more in the coming year. According to news reports, one resort in Florida even told a guest that its resort fee is required by state law, which it's not.
2012 promises to be a good year for most of you, but that's not a slam dunk. Macroeconomic factors outside of your control could easily sour the U.S. economy and jeopardize lodging's solid recovery. It's time to resolve to respect your guests in all dealings with them. Don't become a hated industry, like the airlines.