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Hotels Impose 'Energy' Surcharge in the West

February 18, 2001

In the air or on the ground, there seems to be no escape from the surcharge trend in travel. This time, blame the energy crisis.

In a move reminiscent of the fuel surcharges tacked onto airline fares to cover increasing fuel costs, a major national hotel chain is imposing what it calls a "temporary surcharge" on room rates in California, Oregon and Washington.

Melissa Henninger, spokeswoman for New York-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said last week that the fee, $2.50 per room per night, was added "due to the significant increase in utility charges." Starwood's brands include Westin, St. Regis, Four Points by Sheraton, Luxury Collection and W Hotels. The surcharge applies to hotels in the three states that are owned and managed by Starwood, plus several franchise hotels, she added.

At the reservations desk of the Westin San Francisco Airport in San Mateo, the surcharge is billed as the "California energy assessment fee," a clerk said last week, and it totals $2.75 with tax. Despite its name, the hotel confirmed that the surcharge is imposed privately by the hotel, not by a government body.

Bill McGee, editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, said he was not surprised by the surcharge, adding: "The travel industry has gotten very good at assessing fees over and above the price of the product." But Joe Terzi, Starwood's vice president of operations for Southern California, said the surcharge "in a lot of cases . . . doesn't really compensate the hotel" for cost increases. He said electricity costs have roughly tripled for hotels in the region since last summer.

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