One of the worst things to afflict the travel world lately is the resort fee. This abominable extra charge that gets tacked on to your stay, supposedly covering such “vital” things such as pool and fitness room access, local telephone calls, and a daily bottle of water, needs to go away. The resort fee has even evolved into a “destination fee”, where properties that don’t have any resort facilities have decided to add an extra charge.
Hotel chains vary a bit on their policies regarding resort fees during award stays. I’m fond of both Hilton and Hyatt’s loyalty programs where the pesky fee is waived on awards where the room is covered in full by points. With other chains, you aren’t so lucky. In Wyndham’s case, I had no idea what the policy was until a recent stay.
Wyndham Rewards resort fee policy on award stays
When I booked the Vino Bello Resort in Napa for a New Year’s getaway, I was made aware of the resort fee that applies at the property through follow-up emails from the resort itself. I was also given a total for the stay of $515 that did not include taxes or fees. This was confusing since I’d booked an award, but I just assumed that the property must not see the same reservation details, as this was received from the hotel directly with a different confirmation number.
The mention of the resort fee sent me looking through the Wyndham Rewards terms and conditions for the policy regarding resort fees on award stays. Eventually, I found the following (emphasis mine):
“Members can redeem 15,000 points for one (1) free night at any Participating Hotel worldwide (a “Go Free Award”), subject to availability with no blackout dates. A Go Free Award is valid only for the room rate for one (1) single or double standard hotel room for up to the maximum occupancy of the room, including local taxes and resort/facility fees (i.e., fees charged by certain properties in connection with every guest’s stay that are associated with the use of such property’s equipment, amenities and/or facilities) but not including incidental charges (i.e., charges that may or may not be incurred by a guest depending on his or her activities at the property, such as, but not limited to, long distance telephone calls, movie rentals and room service), except in the case of all-inclusive participating Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and Wyndham Garden properties, where a Go Free Award also includes meals and other amenities for up to two (2) guests for the free night. At non all-inclusive Participating Hotels, breakfast may or may not be included in a Go Free Award, depending on the applicable Participating Hotel’s policy. Please contact the applicable Participating Hotel for more information.”
There it is, plain as day (section III.C-1). The verbiage clearly states that points used for Go Free awards cover the room charges and any resort or facility fees. The only time where the resort fee should *not* be covered is for Go Free awards at Caesar’s hotels. There is a footnote on other pages that states that points cannot be used to pay the resort fee. In any case, this gave me the confidence that we would not be charged a resort fee for our stay.
Experience at the Vino Bello Resort Napa
Our overall experience at the Vino Bello Resort in Napa over New Years was excellent. The property is nice, and the kids and I enjoyed the spaciousness of a one bedroom condo, the pool and hot tub, and bowling at the Crush Lounge. The staff we interacted with were pleasant and attentive. The one thing that marred the stay was my experience at check out. I expected to have a zero balance on the folio, as we hadn’t incurred any additional charges to the room, and all the room charges and resort fees should have been covered by the award redemption.
Except I was told I would still need to pay the resort fee of $25 per night plus taxes. I gently pushed back, citing the Wyndham program terms referenced above. The front desk agent went back to talk with his manager. When he returned, I was informed that they “could not waive the resort fee”.
I’d hoped the manager would be knowledgeable about Wyndham policy and the situation would be quickly corrected. Instead, I was forced to provide a link to the terms. I’d actually emailed myself the link and a screenshot of the section explaining the policy in the eventuality I needed it. Very glad I did. The agent took my phone back to the manager to discuss. Maybe it would have been wiser to ask that the manager come out, but I personally didn’t see any harm in parting with the device for a minute or two. The agent returned with the answer I hoped for: they would waive the resort fee. He seemed disgruntled at that point, which made the rest of the interaction a bit awkward. But we were able to leave without any charges on the folio.
I followed up on the experience with a tweet to Wyndham, which elicited a response asking for more detail by private message. I also filled out the survey request I received by email, noting that the stay was excellent, except for this one issue. While I know that one single person’s experience isn’t a lot to invoke any meaningful change, if Wyndham starts receiving feedback from numerous members displeased with properties trying to charge resort fees on award stays (or simply about outrageous resort fees in general), things might actually start to move in the right direction.
I shouldn’t have to pressure a property into abiding by the terms clearly spelled out by the Wyndham Rewards program, but it proved necessary in this case. Hopefully the feedback to Wyndham will ensure that they resolve this misunderstanding between properties and the program to which they belong. Finally, I hope that we all as frequent travelers can push back against this frustrating industry trend.