The state Office of Consumer Protection is investigating resort fees charged by local hotel operators.
It’s part of a nationwide push by state and federal regulators to curb alleged hidden fees in the visitor industry.
"It's becoming more pervasive in the industry. And number one we want to ensure that the consumer is fully informed as to what costs are associated with reserving a room,” said Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection.
Resorts fees at Hawaii hotels typically range between $10 and $40 a night. They’re not included in the standard room rate listed at a hotel’s website. But they can often be found in the fine print in the company’s online disclosures.
Some consumers complain that they don’t find out about these fees until it’s time them to check out of their hotels.
"When you get hooked on it at the end it's like a sucker punch. I don't really understand what they're for,” said Tasha Daniels, a St. George, Utah resident on vacation in Waikiki.
"I think it's a little scammy. I don't think it's an honest thing."
The resort fees cover costs of hotel amenities ranging from use of hotel gyms, telephone services, access to business centers and other amenities. At most hotels, they’re mandatory.
Besides Hawaii, a number of state regulatory agencies are looking into this practice. The Federal Trade Commission is also considering reforms requiring hotels to include these fees in their listed room rates.
But an executive with the state's largest hotel chain defended the practice during a recent hearing on the rail funding bill.
Outrigger Hotel’s Ed Case says his company started charging resort fees about a year ago to compete with other hotel operators are doing the same thing.
"You are basically dealing with other people who are advertising a rate without fully disclosing a resort fee,” said Case.
"You are being eaten alive by a marketing effort by others (who do) not to disclose it."
But Levins, of the state Consumer Protection Office, said just because others in the hotel industry are charging a hidden fee doesn’t justify others from doing so.
He said that if these fees are found to be unfair or deceptive, a hotel operator can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.