July 28, 2022
Hotels have long tacked pesky fees to guest bills. Mandatory nightly resort fees that can top $50 with tax. Valet and self-parking charges. Plus fees for early check-in, late checkout, rollaway beds, and mini fridges.
The Bellagio resort in Las Vegas, where room rates run several hundred dollars a night, will save you a poolside seat on the Friday of Labor Day weekend—for $200 a person. That gets you a standard lounge chair, side table, umbrella, and towels. Don’t confuse it with a cushier daybed or cabana, which will set you back $575 or $1,200.
Excalibur Hotel & Casino, the Bellagio’s budget cousin, is asking $125 for two chairs at its Spring pool, slightly less than the nightly room price. Perks include shade, a bucket of ice, and cold water.
At the Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu, a pair of reserved lounge chairs and an umbrella in the front row of the hotel’s infinity pool is going for $125 on Labor Day weekend.
The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, the largest resort in Arizona, is charging as much as $150 per “plush” lounge chair on weekends this summer. Unlike other chairs around the pool, these are padded. The only other listed perks: “upgraded water selections and towel service,” though towels are free for everyone at the pool. (The hotel says guests who reserve lounge chairs also receive occasional poolside treats, including fruit cups.)
Hotels and the software companies behind the OpenTable-like systems that manage pool real estate say these reservations offer vacationers convenience and save them from having to circle the pool at 7 a.m. to nab a primo spot.
The 950-room resort was an early adopter when it created its Griffin Bay pool section with 75 reservable seats in 2018. Anderson says guest feedback showed some travelers would “happily pay” for a chair. It’s been a success, he says, with reservations selling out on busy summer holiday weekends and during spring break. Hence the rising prices. In 2019, the resort’s chair fees started at $25. Today the starting price is $75.
Anderson and others say there are plenty of free pool chairs to go around, even in peak season. The JW Marriott has 1,400 chairs—so fewer than 10% of its seats are for sale.
“If you want to have a chaise lounge reservation so you know you actually have a place for yourself for the day, you can choose to do that,” says Tracee Nalewak-Giraldo, chief growth officer of UrVenue, a Las Vegas-based hospitality technology company
If you choose not to, she says, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a spot. Nalewak-Giraldo says she knows of no hotels that charge a reservation for all seats.
Nalewak-Giraldo, a former executive for chains including Bellagio parent MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, says she would have paid to reserve seats at the edge of a pool at the Mexico resort she recently visited with friends. The prime lounge chairs sat empty all day because guests had plopped towels on them but never showed up.
“As a guest that could be a little infuriating,” she says.
Other travelers fume that it’s nickel and diming. Tamara Mezzo, a mortgage broker from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and her husband visit Las Vegas so often they consider it a second home and maintain a Vegas blog with travel tips. She is against the lounge-chair fees, partly on principle, partly because the pool isn’t a place where she lounges for hours a day on vacation.
“We would never pay,” she says. “I don’t think it ever should be charged for unless you want some priority section or something.”
Mezzo worries that novice travelers may think paying a fee to reserve a chair is required, or that they are reserving something more than a lounge chair.
Hotels don’t always work hard to dispel that notion. They send pre-trip emails to guests with links to restaurant, spa, activity and, yes, pool reservations.
An email sent by Caesars Palace in Las Vegas this week for a trip in early August carried the subject line: “Let us customize your trip.” A Caesars Entertainment representative says there are free chairs available.
Among the pitches: lounge-chair reservations at the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis. The going price on Saturday, Aug. 6: $200 for a single Neptune Deluxe Chair. Translation: It’s cushioned.
Representatives for MGM Resorts and Sheraton Waikiki didn’t respond to requests for comment or interviews on the topic.
Research contact: @WSJ