Hidden charges are catching on all over the world, writes Ruwani Perera

Whatever lingo you use, it all adds up to the same thing - travellers are getting stung by taxes known by other names.

Here at home, politicians are talking of taxes on tourists for our Great Walks and bed taxes and tourism levies, all extra burdens on overseas travellers.

So, I guess it's only fair when Kiwis travel abroad to expect the same treatment. But is it comparing apples with apples?

Advertisement

We're expecting visitors to pay a little more for enjoying the beauty and wonder of our landscape and contributing towards protecting our native wildlife, but annoying surcharges have popped up on my radar lately for things I believe travellers shouldn't have to pay extra for.

On a recent stay in Honolulu, I came across a "Daily Resort Fee" charged per room, per night. It added up to about $35 a day.

When I inquired what this entailed, I was given a list of about 15 "benefits". This included one-day rental of a GoPro camera, a 15-minute surfing lesson, a tote beach bag and lei-making and hula classes. These resort charges were billed as generous amenities, but who are they trying to fool?

Our resort in Mexico called its surcharge a "Leisure Tax" and tried on the same array of inducements, such as tequila tasting and yoga at dawn. I'm not sure that it's a great idea to practise your downward-facing dog at sunrise after a night of tequila sampling.

They also tried to tell us that two bottles of water a day and use of the hotel gym were included in this package.

Some things, I believe, should be part of the room charge - water, Wi-Fi and workouts being the most important. These shouldn't be classed as "benefits" but included as part of any holidaymaker's necessities - like a hairdryer or a plug to charge your phone.

I argued the point at this resort - I had booked through a travel website and it clearly stated these extras were covered in the room rental, so the hotel had no choice but to waive these additional charges.

My best advice is to look out for what the room rate includes at the time of your booking.
Compare that experience to accommodation in Asia, which almost certainly comes with buffet breakfasts, use of Kindles and iPads during your stay and transfers to and from the airport all-inclusive of your daily room rate.

Unlimited Wi-Fi, an evening turn-down service and all-you-can-drink water bottles are par for the course.

Recent trips to developing countries such as Vietnam and Sri Lanka highlight the generosity of hoteliers in this region compared with their Western counterparts - especially with fast broadband internet connection throughout the entire resort, considered to be part of the furniture and fittings.

A bit of digging around reveals hidden taxes are catching on worldwide.

City taxes have sprouted up across Europe - some cities will hit you up on a per person, per night basis, while others will sting you at a flat rate (i.e. 5 per cent of your hotel room bill).

It's an added cost that sometimes won't reveal itself until checkout.

The extra charges don't always go directly to the hotel's bank balance, some payments go towards propping up the local tourism industry. A bit like where New Zealand is headed.
So Auckland Council's proposed hotel taxes are in step with this global trend to add to holidaymakers' ever-increasing costs.

I want to know why the stinginess? These are four- to five-star hotels where you are paying a premium for the real estate and slick service - surely a bit of hospitality should be extended to travellers during their stay?

As time goes on, I'm certain there'll be new ways of burdening the traveller with added costs - the language might change, but the bottom line is crystal clear: you'll be forking out a bit more for your overseas holiday.