Subscribing to a vacation e-mail blast is a blessing and a curse. The dream of getting away can never be underestimated until the offer unlocks cynicism. Such was the case with this special offer by Secret Escapes (free account in exchange for e-mail address). The Thompson Miami Beach, by all accounts, is a very lively property that should be capable of satisfying guests with a highly desirable room rate. The issue is with the dreaded additional charge, the resort fee.
The oasis that charges the resort fee is not an oasis, it is royal court sending their knights to collect a sixpence to live within the existence of their royalty. The hotel certainly retains the right to choosing how to extract the coin from the fingertips of a visitor but it is transparent in the message they send: They are unable to achieve their revenue targets without charging a existential fee.
Any expense not named room, parking, or tax, is an cursory warning that the amenities are not up to par. When doing business in Miami Beach, the hospitality spot’s restaurants and bar scene, spa, and pool area are all expected to live up to a vacationer’s dream of wired relaxation and social gratification. If the service level cannot hold the expectation and the culture cannot hold the attention, guests move elsewhere. The higher the fee, the more likely the hotel acknowledges their product cannot sustain the guest’s full patronage. Editor note: Michelle Bernstein recently opened Sra. Martinez at the hotel, a highly regarded return from it’s past life in the Miami Design District. This is clearly a move in the right direction.
The resort fee is akin to a baggage fee from an airline: Most, if not all, airlines use this tactic at the benefit of the bottom line and expense of guest satisfaction. The baggage fee is the upfront cost of doing business and pays for the service of handling your items with care. The resort fee is the advance notice given that the brand has assessed their guests needs and quantifies a unique charge to attain the expected level of service. A major difference: the difference is the airline industry is broken and can never fully grasp a business model that is sustainable. Meanwhile, occupancy levels and average rates for Miami Beach continue to maintain an excellent seasonal pace. Any South Florida vacation spot that is fully functional and cannot find the color black during this season should be red faced with shame.
Some of the origin of the resort fee on one’s bill can be attributed to location. In many cases, the farther away from South Beach, the more likely the resort fee will show up on the bill. South Beach draws visitors like the word “free” inspires locals. It is the gravitational pull that unseats the mid to north beach tourist and calls them 10 blocks south for all but four hours of bedrest. It is an inherent challenge that a property on Collins Avenue has that one on Ocean Drive has not.
The resort fee will continue forward as the cost of doing business for many locations. It is the driver of revenue to a hotel that has the facade of an oasis with an uncertain capacity of achieving a guest’s full satisfaction.