LIMP toast and tepid milk: yours for just $15. Most hotel breakfasts are such awful deals that the only people who would consider them are those who are a) horribly busy and b) spending someone else’s money. Business travellers, in other words. The evidence is there every morning in the dining-rooms of posh hotels: apart from a few holidaymakers too dazed to have worked out the currency-conversion rate, almost everyone else is in a suit, charging the bill to their expense account.
After a few recent trips, I’ve noticed a new ruse that may be squeezing even more out of the wallets of the AmEx-wielding business set: internet access. Like a speedy breakfast, it’s something that most holidaymakers can live without, but business travellers really need—and it is priced accordingly. At the moment I’m in Honduras, one of the cheapest countries in the Americas. Yet at the Tegucigalpa Intercontinental, one day of Wi-Fi costs nearly $17 (or roughly three-and-a-half days’ pay for the average Honduran). What’s more, it’s $17 per computer, which in the age of internet-ready iPhones is a pain.
When it comes to hidden charges, the rule seems to be that the higher the up-front cost of the room, the more the guests can expect to pay for extras. Most of the cheap hotels I’ve stayed in recently have had free Wi-Fi—heck, you even get it free in McDonald’s these days. B&Bs usually also charge less for things like phone calls and laundry, favourite money-spinners for the smart hotels. And they are more generous with extras such as bottled water in the rooms. (The litre-bottles here at the Intercontinental cost $4.)
Is it so surprising that expensive hotels come with expensive extras? Maybe not, until you consider other travel industries, such as airlines. Go with a pricey carrier and you tend to get a meal thrown in, allocated seating, and so on. Budget airlines, meanwhile, sell tickets for peanuts but whack you later with eye-watering luggage charges and expensive nibbles on board. In the hotel world, it seems like the smarter chains somehow get away with a double-whammy: British Airways prices for the room, and Ryanair prices for the extras.