Is fully exclusive the future?

Fully inclusive and budget business models are just two of the various newer hospitality product types that have become common and appear to work. The concept of fully exclusive appears to being practiced in some quarters more and more to the extent we are prompted to ask, will it catch on? Our view is certainly not. In fact, we would venture that operations that continue to perpetuate and market this kind of approach are potentially going to lose credibility, if not market share. Surely the customer is entitled to have certain items included within the room rate and expect value?

The debate whether hotels should charge for Wi-Fi rages on, but in reality customer-focused hoteliers realize this is against all customer needs and are changing, if perhaps not fast enough. This, however, is only one example. The practice of charging resort fees as an add-on seems even more unreasonable, especially in hotels that call themselves “resorts” and charge accordingly. Recently we have seen attempts at charging additional tariffs for spa entry, beach access and room service trays in addition to old-fashioned cover charges. The famous TV advertisement based on charging for watching a sunset suddenly becomes less amusing!

We recently witnessed one of the most incredible attempts at ridiculous add-on charges at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, property. Having secured a fairly high-tariff room on the beach with a view, the latter for an additional hefty charge, we ensured by confirmation there were no further hidden charges and were assured of the same. At checkout we were presented with a US$300 charge for valet car parking, which was a simple car park operation within a walkable distance. A huge disagreement broke out on the basis that any charge was inclusive, and in any event more than US$30 per night made the room rate ridiculous. Without the paperwork at hand we were forced to pay the bill, and only later on production of the paperwork was the amount refunded.

The real point was that not only were we correct as customers, but we had been subjected to unnecessary unpleasantness and embarrassment that spoiled what was otherwise a pleasant stay. The charge was well hidden in small print, the valet rate plus all other additions made an expensive hotel very expensive and of poor value, yet the staff seemed to enjoy taking the moral high ground until proven wrong. It was as if customer guilty until proven innocent.

This is not hospitality. Our contention is that hotels are better advised to charge realistically within the room rates according to what the product really offers rather than to misrepresent value by charging so many additions. All team members should also have access to information to understand what is agreed with any particular customer, and if disputes arise, the customer should be given any benefit of the doubt. If fully exclusive is to be practiced then all charges and their details should be very prominent, which will at least allow the client to go elsewhere.

One of the best sunsets in the world is on the Greek island of Santorini, and we have never been charged for it. Santorini has, however, one of the most expensive drink tariffs on the planet, and we gladly pay year after year.

In our opinion, fully exclusive doesn’t work. What is your view?