Category: Hotels

During a recent 8-day filming trip for the new luxury hotel TV show, Great Escapes, I was able to stay and film some of the best hotels in all of San Diego, California. When planning the trip I knew that I wanted to stay at a variety of hotels to make sure I was able to experience all that San Diego had to offer. Thankfully, I was able to find four unique hotels that were a perfect fit for the new TV show and diverse enough to reflect all of San Diego. For anyone who can’t decide on where to take their next vacation, don’t overlook San Diego as a destination. Here is my hotel review of our stay at The Lodge at Torrey Pines! (more…)

During a recent filming trip for the new luxury hotel TV show, Great Escapes, I was lucky enough to stay at one of the windy city’s best hotel, the Thompson Chicago. The hotel offers beautiful views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan, all while being just steps from the famous Magnificent Mile. Keep reading for my in-depth review of the Thompson Chicago hotel and why it should be on the top of anyone’s list who is looking for a downtown hotel while visiting Chicago! (more…)

While filming for the new luxury hotel TV show, Great Escapes, I spent 8 days exploring San Diego, CA visiting some of the best hotels the city has to offer! Anyone looking for a family friendly beach resort close to downtown San Diego, the Kona Kai Resort & Marina should be at the top of your list! (more…)

During a non-typical Monday-night trip in March, I headed off to film a new hotel feature segment for my new TV show, Great Escapes, where I visited a city within a city. A residential and resort community located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Bay Harbor is the epitome of Northern Michigan lakeside-side luxury retreat. The development stretches along five miles of shoreline and includes an equestrian, yacht, and golf club as well as being scattered with retail shops, restaurants, private condos and homes, and my destination, the Inn at Bay Harbor(more…)

During my travels, I’ve had many amazing hotel experiences and I’ve had some that are a complete disaster. From impossible to connect to WiFi to getting asked to pay for a room upgrade because they didn’t have any more regular rooms available, I’ve heard it all. Watch this video where I reenact some of the things that hotels do that really annoy their guests.

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Over the past decade and a half, regional ski resort visits throughout the U.S. have been largely stagnant or in decline. Per Snowsports Industries America 2015 Fact Sheet, nationwide visits peaked at 60.5 million in the 2007/08 season and dropped to an almost 15 year low of 52.8 million in the 2015/16 season. Why is this and what does the industry need to do to remain viable long-term?

Lack of Early Adoption

First and foremost, early adoption is key in determining whether or not a consumer will EVER get involved. In a 2014 Ski Essentials survey, almost 32% of people started on the mountain between the ages of 2-5 and a whopping 82.5% began before the age of 18. Of those that started before the age of 18, 94.5% are still skiing.

Skiing is a Lifelong Sport

Sadly, even high retention among those that get started early may not be enough to save snowsports long term. In the late 70’s there were roughly 735 resorts in the US. By the 2013 season, that number was down to 470, says Unofficial Alpine. That means the nearest ski hill is getting further and further away from the average family, making it even more of a hassle to get involved for those who are interested.

Exorbitant Costs

Above and beyond issues around interest and access, the increasing cost of participation has also put a damper on consumer behavior. In the 2013/14 season, the average weekend lift-ticket price was $93.33 per Ski Essentials. Factor in equipment rentals and food and you’re talking about well over a $150 day…per person! Now you may be thinking, “yeah, but those are Colorado prices,” and you would be correct. But cutting the number in half for smaller local hills still makes a day trip for a family of four roughly $300. Numbers like these are a still a significant investment for many families and a tall barrier to entry for new consumers interested in giving the sport a try. To take it a step further, look at what it would cost to BUY all new equipment for a family of four. Not to mention having to replace equipment for growing kids around every two seasons. The total costs skyrocket.

Skiing Lift Tickets are Overpriced

Solutions

First and foremost, ski resorts must work to build relationships with local schools if they want to help groom the next generation of lifetime skiers. Roughly 11% of those surveyed by Ski Essentials said they were introduced to skiing through a ski club. Beyond that, the average estimated ski club trip costs between $26-$40 unlike the typical family trips mentioned above. That means there are swaths of youngsters out there with the potential to get into skiing while young and at an affordable rate. I call that untapped potential.

School Ski Clubs

Furthermore, those small and medium “beginner” resorts need to rethink the overall costs of a day of skiing. Discounted lift tickets are helpful, but the price of equipment rentals and food often make a seemingly affordable day anything but.

Second, everything possible must be done to keep small local ski hills open. They are key to ushering new skiers into the fold. So much so, that over 60% of skiers surveyed say they learned on local hills with less than 1600 feet of elevation. And once they’re involved, they tend to stay involved for life. Many of these ski hills are community funded and/or non-profits. If you’re passionate about snowsports, make sure you advocate for continued funding for these type of local ski hills and help with fundraising efforts to keep them alive.

Industry consolidation will play a key role here as well. If large players like Vail Resorts continue to purchase and invest in small properties (like they did recently with Wisconsin’s Wilmot Mountain) there may be hope for the little guy. Investments in diversifying entertainment options at these properties creates viability by bringing in much-needed non-skiing revenue. However, this type of consolidation can also lead to price increases, which could ultimately be detrimental to the industry as a whole, as research shows that cost of entry is a large barrier to new consumers.

Finally, the industry must embrace dynamic pricing as quickly as possible. This means taking everything from the weather to on-premise hotel inventory into account when setting prices vs. working with a dated static pricing structure. It means offering discounts for those who purchase lift tickets in advance, raising prices as the date approaches, and potentially cutting them drastically on days with low turnout or poor weather forecasts. While this sounds complicated, companies like Liftopia have been helping resorts implement this model for the past decade. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area told Bloomberg that it increased its advance sales by 15% the first season it implemented the model.

Only time will tell if the industry is going to respond appropriately. Will the major players in Colorado put today’s profits ahead of nurturing tomorrow’s customers?

Do you work at a ski resort and have an opinion you would like to share? Leave a comment below or email me at john@stockiexchange.com.

Entrepreneur and Hospitality Consultant, John Stocki, has been hired as a Travel Expert and Segment Producer for a new luxury hotel TV show, Great Escapes. Stocki will be traveling the globe visiting unique and luxurious hotels to be featured on the internationally distributed show scheduled to begin airing in Fall of 2017.

Great Escapes Show Brief

Great Escapes is a 30-minute 39-episode television series created and produced by Bellum Entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Bellum Entertainment is known for producing other award-winning shows that include Corrupt Crimes, Animals Unleashed, Justice Served: Murderous Affairs, Fix It & Finish It, and many others. Together with Bellum Entertainment’s Co-Executive Producer Chris Loud and Producer Morgan Burke-Beyers, who are both Michigan natives, John will be filming and producing the remaining episodes from remote locations around the world with final editing and production being completed in Los Angeles, CA.

Great Escapes has been acquired by Sky Vision, the international distribution division of SKY, and is being distributed domestically by Bellum’s dedicated sales team. The show will be broadcast to ~75% of major city markets throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States on multiple platforms. Agreements have already been accepted for the show to broadcast on Video On Demand services including Hulu, Amazon Video, and Roku starting in 2019. A conservative estimate of global viewership is at 2 million+ and the show will be broadcast internationally for over 10 years.

Great Escapes baumaniere les baux-de-provence france

Watch Sizzle Reel – Password: Bellum

Great Escapes Sky Lodge Adventure Suites

Watch the Pilot Episode #1 – Password: Bellum

John is ready to travel and expose some hotels and destinations throughout the world that are truly Great Escapes. Follow the development of the show and John’s travels via the Great Escapes Facebook PageYouTube Channel, and Website.

Hotels Features, Sponsorships, & Product Placement Opportunities

John’s company, Stocki Exchange, a hospitality consulting firm, has also been hired to lead and manage all Sponsorship and Product Placement opportunities for the show. Companies and/or products we’re interested in featuring include luxury or unique hotels/resorts, casinos, international airlines, luxury travel products (luggage, headphones, watches, etc…), online travel agents, tour companies, Country or State Tourism Organizations, Destination Management Companies (DMC), hospitality suppliers, and alcohol producers.

Are you or do you know someone who would be interested in receiving additional information regarding sponsorship/product placement opportunities? Send an email to john@stockiexchange.com and download a PDF show brief(Updated June 2, 2017)

About John

Born and educated in the United States, John Stocki launched his career on a global scale working in Australia, United Arab Emirates, China, and the US, as well as traveling and training in over 30 countries and 29 states throughout the US. His passion was developed in the hospitality industry where he worked with international luxury hotel brands in marketing, public relations, and eCommerce roles. He brings a straightforward approach, laced with direct personal experience, to his special and unique style which makes his company – Stocki Exchange – so distinctive.

In 2012, after returning to the US, John started the Stocki Exchange – A hospitality consulting firm for hotels & resorts, restaurants, breweries, and bars. He now acts as the company’s CEO and is also a successful Keynote Speaker for topics including travel, and hospitality sales & marketing. John is also a Consulting Partner with Mocinno International, a global hospitality management company with offices in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Palma, Dubai, London, Amsterdam, and Michigan.

He is a Contributor for The Huffington Post, Startup Grind, and Hostfully. During his travels for the filming of Great Escapes, John will be writing destination travel features, posting reviews of his experiences at hotels, as well as sharing his travels on all his social media accounts. Interested in having your brand or product included in a destination feature? Email John.

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Marriott International’s (MI) recent purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for $12.2 Billion dollars, makes it the largest hotel chain in the world. MI now controls 30 different brands, almost 5,800 properties and 1.1 million rooms in more than 110 countries worldwide. That’s more than 1 out of every 15 hotel rooms in the world per the Los Angeles Times.

Marriott controlled brands now include: Bulgari Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton and The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, W, EDITION, JW Marriott, The Luxury Collection, Marriott Hotels, Westin, Le Méridien, Renaissance Hotels, Sheraton, Delta Hotels by MarriottSM, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Vacation Club, Autograph Collection Hotels, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Courtyard, Four Points by Sheraton, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, AC Hotels by Marriott, Aloft, Element, Moxy Hotels, and Protea Hotels by Marriott.

Marriott now trumps both Hilton’s 773,000 and IHG’s 766,000 rooms, according to STR. The integration of both companies loyalty programs, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guests, was a “central, strategic rationale for the transaction” according to Marriott CEO, Arne Sorenson, during a recent interview with the Associated Press.

Starwood put itself up for sale in April 2015. The Stamford, Connecticut, company had struggled to grow as fast as its rivals, particularly in “limited service hotels,” which are smaller properties which don’t have restaurants or banquet halls. They are often located on the side of the highway, near airports or in suburban office parks.

To acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Marriott International had to outbid China’s Anbang Insurance Group

What does this mean for Loyalty Program Members?

For now, Starwood and Marriott will maintain separate loyalty programs due to competitive partnerships the two have in place. Starwood has a credit card deal with American Express as well as close partnerships with Delta Air Lines and Uber. Marriott has a much larger program that includes partnerships with Chase bank and United Airlines. “We have to see how those partnerships evolve,” said Sorenson.

However, members of Starwood and Marriott’s loyalty programs will be able to link their accounts together. Gold Elite members in one program will get Gold status in the other. Platinum Elite members will get Platinum in the other. Marriott Silver members will see Starwood’s lowest category, Preferred Plus. 

Marriott Rewards members now have access to 1,300 more properties around the world. In maintaining the exception service Starwood’s members were accustomed to, members can now convert their points to Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio.

What does this mean for Marriott International?

This merger represents a huge opportunity for Marriott. They have an unprecedented leverage over the markets they’re in due to the size and diversity of their brand portfolio. They have brands covering every niche as well as the resources to easily rebrand and renovate properties if needed to ensure market fit.

“We’ve got an ability to offer just that much more choice. A choice in locations, a choice in the kind of hotel, a choice in the amount a customer needs to spend,” said Sorenson. He also mentioned that he believes all 30 of the brands now under the Marriott umbrella will remain intact.

While more traditional takeover models have included immediately rebranding properties to promote the acquirer, Marriott has taken a savvier approach. Maintaining a unique look and feel for each brand in their portfolio creates broad consumer appeal without looking like the 800 pound gorilla in the marketplace.

What remains to be seen is whether or not consumer sentiment towards the behemoth will change now that they’re the biggest kid on the playground. I believe that as long as they keep their roughly 85 million rewards members happy, public perception may not really have any substantial impact on the brand.

What does this mean for the Industry?

Moving forward, branded hotels (i.e. Hilton, Marriott, etc.) will likely continue to gain market share through acquisition and drive brand loyalty by anticipating consumer behavior and rewarding it with ever-changing loyalty programs. Non-branded hotels will constantly be looking for ways to provide unique value through differentiation of services, amenities, location, and/ or price versus their competition.

With the majority of travel purchases happening online and the growth of smartphone/ mobile transactions, hotel giants such as Marriott, IHG, Best Western, and Choice have significant budgets from franchise fees that can fund the necessary investments into digital platforms to reach today’s consumers. Independent hotels and small chains will continue to struggle to compete digitally against the large chain hotels due to lack of resources, experience, and budget. Both will also be challenged by Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) such as Priceline, Expedia, and TripAdvisor whose spending power and digital reach continues to grow. Though they are not immune to the struggles of long-term brand loyalty either.

If you’re a Marriott Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest member, I would love to get your thoughts on the merger. Email me at John@StockiExchange.com or contact me here.

Online Travel Agency Breakdown
The Priceline Group includes Priceline, Booking, Kayak, Agoda, Rentalcars, and Opentable
Expedia Inc. includes Expedia, Trivago, Hotels, Orbitz, Venere, HomeAway, Egencia, Travelocity, Hotwire, Wotif Group, Classic Vacations, and CarRentals
TripAdvisor LLC includes AirfareWatchdog, BookingBuddy, CityMaps, CruiseCritic, FamilyVacationCritic, Flipkey, TheFork, GateGuru, HolidayWatchdog, HouseTrip, IndependentTraveler, Jetsetter, Niumba, Onetime, Oyster, SeatGuru, SmarterTravel, Tingo, Travelpod, Tripbod, VacationHomeRentals, Viator, and VirtualTourist

Have you noticed how those super low hotel room rates you see advertised never really seem to be what you actually pay? Taxes aside, one of the biggest contributors to this are resort fees. So much so, that The Washington Post says U.S. hotel guests paid an estimated $2.7 billion (yes, billion with a B) in resort fees in 2015!

What are Resort Fees? Where did they come from?

If you’re not a millennial, there’s a good chance you remember when resort fees didn’t exist. You probably remember being able to dispute them when they started popping up in the early to mid 90’s as well. Unfortunately, times have changed. These fees, which used to be added to your stay for the upkeep of luxury amenities at high-end resorts, are now found virtually everywhere.

Many of the perks that resort fees were designed to pay for at luxury properties such as beach clubs and tennis courts still exist. However, more and more hotels are tacking on resort fees as an easy way to generate additional revenue. During our research, many hotels said the resort fees provided for amenities such as faxing, in-room safes, local phone calls, beach and pool access, that were previously included in the room rate. In Las Vegas, for example, hotels use many of these reasons to justify fees as high as $32 a day at some properties.

Here’s a great example of one hotel advertising an extremely low rate, then tacking on a 42% resort fee.

Days Inn Las Vegas Reservation 1
At the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a $680 per night island property in Miami that charges a resort fee of $150 per night (plus tax), which comes out to 23.6% of the total room charge. The property doesn’t mention that fee anywhere on their website and when called, said it covered access to all of their facilities and a golf cart for guests to use while on the island. When pressed on it over the phone, they actually called back the next day and offered to waive the resort fee, offered me the Florida resident discount rate even though I live in Michigan, and the only stipulation was that my reservation would be non-cancellable. I guess it’s not mandatory after all…

Fisher Island Club 1

Fisher Island Club 2

Why Do Hotels Still Charge These Fees?

The reasons why many hotels still charge a resort fee are pretty obvious:

  • It’s legal…as long as they disclose the fees before you complete your reservation
  • It allows hotels to deceptively lower their advertised room rates then make up the revenue by tacking on resort fees later
  • Consumers continue to pay them without questioning what they’re getting in return for their money

Challenging the Status Quo

If a property really wanted to, they could offer a stay for $50 a night and charge a $100 resort fee as long as they disclose it prior to booking. Talk about a bait and switch! Cable and internet providers are the one of the only other folks out there charging their customers fees like this with minimal transparency. And, we all know how much everyone loves dealing with them. This deceptive practice has gotten so bad that the FTC is considering changing its current policy as many consumer advocate groups argue that it is unfair and deceptive.

Websites like ResortFeeChecker.com and ResortFees.com are gaining momentum because travelers are tired to being taken advantage of. In a recent study, roughly 1 in 10 travelers to Las Vegas actually changed where they planned to stay in order to avoid paying resort fees. In my opinion, hotels have three options if they want to see continued success as their guests become more discerning:

Option #1 – A La Carte Service Fees and Packages

If properties want to keep resort fees in place, they have to acknowledge that it takes unique and luxurious upgrades to justify them as well as a market willing to pay for them. If people don’t take advantage of those perks, the property should offer to waive the fees. A recent study confirmed consumer sentiment for this approach.

Option #2 – Roll the Resort Fee into the Room Rate

Hotels could drop the resort fee entirely and roll it into the room rate. Let the consumer know exactly what they’re paying for and allow them to make their own decision, with no hidden fees/charges. The same study referenced in Option #1, found that 67% of consumers preferred this type of bundled pricing. Truly savvy brands will utilize this as a marketing opportunity to explain higher room rates and differentiate themselves from competitors who still nickel and dime their customer base.

Option #3 – Do Nothing While Competitors Choose Options #1 & #2

Hoteliers that refuse to change will continue to benefit from unsuspecting, price-conscious consumers…for the short term. However, many hotels already see the changes in consumer spending habits and have updated their pricing model to mirror the options above. If this consumer behavior trend continues, businesses who are slow to respond to the change will likely see a decline in revenue until their pricing model better reflects consumer demands.

The Hard Truth

Quite frankly, hoteliers are going to need to work harder. Charging resort fees has been an easy revenue generator requiring little to no effort for too long. As consumers become more educated, brands that continue to utilize them will be risking their ability to build long-term brand loyalty, a key performance metric for the travel industry.

Sadly, unless the practice is deemed a form of deceptive advertising by the FTC, many hotels and resorts will likely stay the course as they are too tempted by the easy revenue. Even those who want to change may be too cash-flow sensitive, requiring the short-term revenue resort fees provide just to stay afloat. Additionally, properties in highly-competitive resort destinations like Las Vegas and Miami, where resort fees have been the norm for decades, will likely be the last to change as it will put them at a disadvantage price-wise in online search results. To survive, these hotels will likely continue to advertise low rates that undersell the market and focus on a volume-driven strategy, targeting the most price-conscious consumers.

Unfortunately for them, transparency is the currency businesses trade in today. The internet provides everyone with more options and information than they know what to do with. Consumers, even cost-conscious ones, are deciding they don’t want to do business with organizations who aren’t honest and upfront with them.

If you’re a consumer who has successfully challenged these charges or a hotelier who is considering changes to your fees, I would love to get in touch. Email me at John@StockiExchange.com or contact me online here.


Chances are you know someone that has used Airbnb recently. The peer-to-peer lodging site has now racked up over 60 million guests in 190+ countries, so we wouldn’t be surprised. At this point, it’s safe to say they’re quickly becoming a household name, particularly among Millennials. In fact, in a recent survey, 67% of those between 18 and 24, and 75% of those between 25 and 34, said that they’ve used a home-sharing service in the past year. Here is exactly why they love Airbnb so much!
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