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What do hotel guests really want in 2024? You might be surprised by the answer. - Illustration by Dustin ElliottAre you ready for the latest hotel gimmick? It’s giving you what you want. I know, it’s revolutionary.

But that’s the surprising discovery Eric Stone recently made when he booked a room at a Holiday Inn property in Las Vegas. It promoted daily cleaning and no resort fees — two things Stone says every hotel should have, anyway.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Stone says sarcastically.

The idea that price transparency or daily room cleaning is worth promoting shows how far the hotel industry has drifted from what should be the norm. It comes when the government fights junk fees with a proposed rule that would effectively ban resort fees in the United States.

And in a business with near record-high rates, guests love the simple idea that hotels would give them what they want. It’s far better than giving them what they don’t like, which is a troubling trend I identified a few weeks ago.

“Travelers have sent a clear message,” says Konrad Waliszewski, a lodging industry trendwatcher who runs a hotel reservation site. “No more accepting less for more.”

Result: More hotels are advertising that they have no resort fees. Others are promoting “free” breakfast or daily housekeeping. That can make booking a hotel confusing since travellers might wonder what is — and isn’t — included in the price of their room. Or what should it be? (Don’t worry, I’ll have the correct answer in a minute.)

The latest come-on: No resort fees!

Resort fees are mandatory daily surcharges added to your bill for amenities such as pool towels, use of the hotel gym and “free” internet. Often, hotels don’t reveal these charges until you’re on the last screen of your reservation, by which time you’ve already decided to book. 

Over the last two decades, many hotels — not just resorts — have added these fees, which range from $20 a day to, in extreme cases, over $100.

But now, some properties advertise that they don’t have resort fees to distinguish themselves from the crowd

Alex Beene, a community coordinator from Nashville, recently booked a hotel room in California for a convention. 

“I was stunned to see many hotels advertising no resort fees,” he recalls. That’s very attractive because some hotels in places like San Diego and Los Angeles charge up to $50 extra in fees for benefits I never really use.”

Hotels say “no resort fees” promotions have led to higher bookings. For example, Crane’s Beach House, a boutique hotel in Delray Beach, Fla., started last to advertise that it doesn’t have any resort fees. 

“When we looked at our market here in Delray Beach, we noticed virtually every competitor charged a resort fee — not to mention other fees like parking or valet, internet, even additional towels,” says hotel spokeswoman Carli Brinkman. She says having no fees sets it apart and offers a better guest experience. And the hotel is on track to have its best year on record, thanks partly to the absence of resort fees.

“Free” breakfast for hotel guests?

Another heavily advertised amenity is “free” breakfast. And I’m putting “free” in quotes because it’s not free if you’re paying for your room — it’s included in the price of your room. (If it were free, I could walk into the hotel and enjoy breakfast without paying, which is not the case.)

I’m currently living in Los Angeles, and near me, several hotels, including the Embassy Suites and Best Western, advertise “free breakfast.” Several hotel chains — most of them budget hotels — include breakfast with their stays. 

The concept of a hotel that offers guests breakfast at no additional charge dates back hundreds of years. It may be one of the basic tenets of good hospitality. In the rest of the world, it would be unimaginable not to include breakfast as part of your stay. 

“Huge irony,” says Adrian Mooney, sales director at Kilkea Castle, a resort and golf club in Ireland. “European hotels have been promoting free breakfast forever. We don’t draw huge attention to this as it is a given in Europe, but since the American clients do not know this, we make sure that it is noted and included. Travelers don’t want surprises at the end of the trip.”

The “free” breakfast trend is unlikely to stick. Instead, hotels may offer special packages that include breakfast to entice travellers to book. But apart from the discount chain hotels providing “free” breakfast, this hospitality trend is shaky.

Daily housekeeping included

Some hotels are also touting “free” daily cleaning — there’s that word again. But this should never be a selling point like the other advertised services. Guests should be able to take it for granted. This issue appears to be limited to U.S. hotels, struggling with higher post-pandemic labour costs and under more pressure to turn a profit. 

Stone, a retired nonprofit executive from Los Gatos, Calif., says he was mildly annoyed because the Holiday Inn in Las Vegas didn’t clean his room daily. Instead, it offered a “daily refresh” of his room.

What’s a daily refresh? According to Holiday Inn’s parent company, IHG Hotels & Resorts, it’s a “lighter-touch housekeeping service” that removes trash and replaces towels and other amenities. Other hotel chains have similar policies.

Some cities are having none of it. In Los Angeles, the city council passed the Workplace Security, Workload, Wage and Retention Measures for Hotel Workers in 2022, requiring daily housekeeping at most hotels.

Hilton also bucked the trend this fall when it started offering automatic daily housekeeping at some of its luxury and full-service properties, including Embassy Suites. 

Skipping daily housekeeping is a disgusting way for hotels to save money, and guests won’t stand for it anymore when they’re paying record-high room rates. But for now, it’s an opportunity for some clever hotels to differentiate themselves from the competition — and they are.

So where’s all this headed?

If the government succeeds in eliminating junk fees, then hotels won’t be able to advertise “no resort fees” — because they’ll be illegal. Daily housekeeping will soon become a standard in the United States again, as in the rest of the civilized world. But if you want breakfast included, you’ll have to travel abroad.

According to hospitality consultant Steve Turk, the most forward-looking hotels are already focusing on offering the services guests expect and telling the truth about their prices. 

“This shift is in direct response to what guests want,” he says. 

But until that happens, he advises paying attention to the total room rate and all the amenities that are included in your room — especially the ones that are not included.

Elliott’s tips for getting what you want from a hotel

Resort fees and every-other-day housekeeping will still be a problem for hotel guests in late 2023. Here’s how to get what you want:

Bring your own breakfast. I live in hotels, and I can tell you that even the best hotel breakfasts leave much to be desired. Chances are, you have a favourite breakfast cereal or fruit item. My advice? Bring it with you. 

Skip hotels that charge mandatory resort fees. Don’t reward a hotel with your business if it forces you to pay a surcharge on top of your room rate. Instead, book a hotel that gives you an honest, all-in rate. If you don’t have a choice, try to negotiate removing the mandatory fee before you click the “book” button. Remember, resort fees are endangered, and hotels that charge them know their days are numbered.

Sign up for daily housekeeping. Some hotels require guests to opt into daily housekeeping. (A receptionist will ask you about it when you check-in.) Always say “yes,” even if you think you won’t need it. Hotel rooms can clutter up quickly. If someone doesn’t clean your room, let the front desk know.




Written by: Christopher Elliott


Christopher Elliott is an author, consumer advocate, and journalist. He founded Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps solve consumer problems. He publishes Elliott Confidential, a travel newsletter, and the Elliott Report, a news site about customer service. If you need help with a consumer problem, you can reach him here or email him at chris@elliott.org.