In general, I support the concept of the resort fee, but only when the charges are completely and persuasively explained to guests. For a resort fee to make sense, it's got to present a value proposition to the guest: For $X you receive A, B and C. Otherwise, it only serves to inflame the guest perception of nickel and dimeing. (See the airline industry for further explanation.)
Last week, I stayed two nights at the spectacular, over-the-top Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I was there for the inaugural CHICOS event, which explored investment and operations issues in the Caribbean tourism industry. The event organizers, HVS Caribbean, negotiated a $199 rate, not bad even in shoulder season for such a one-of-a-kind property. If you haven't been and you're an aficionado of hotels (of course, you are; you're in the business), it should be on your bucket list.
While the rate was reasonable, the side charges weren't. Instead of levying a $20 or $25 all-inclusive resort fee that covers Internet access, a couple of bottles of water, a daily paper and access to the fitness center, Atlantis chooses to mete out individual charges for everything imaginable and a few that are imponderable. Four of the five mandatory charges are posted to the folio each day: $1.60 for pool and beach tips, $5 for general gratuity, $12.95 for a utility fee and $15.92 for the PITDA/NPIPB fee. What's that, you ask? After some digging, I found it to be combined fees for the Paradise Island Tourism Development Association and the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board (Isn't that the same thing?)
The one-time charge was $6 for the bellmen. I wheeled my own suitcase and never went to the pool, but I had no choice about the charges. And while many resort fees include Internet access, it is extra at Atlantis: $29.90 for two days.
As I said at the top, resort fees are a fact of life in some markets and, with direct and creative communications, will be accepted, if not embraced by guests. The kind of shady policies adopted by the Atlantis never will be. In fact, they'll do nothing but create resentment among guests, no matter how spectacular the resort.