Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 | 11:08 a.m.
Las Vegas visitors probably stay at the Bellagio more for its dancing fountains or opulent surroundings than because it's one of the very few luxury hotels in town that does not charge a resort fee.
Bellagio plans to charge a resort fee beginning in January as part of a plan by parent company MGM Resorts International to roll out resort fees across all of the company's wholly-owned properties in Las Vegas. It joins many other Las Vegas resorts that already charge such fees, including the high-end Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas resorts.
Many Vegas resorts require their guests to pay these fees, for use of such amenities as the spa, gym and Internet service. The fees are the bane of travelers who have attempted to boycott hotels that charge them and a boon for hotels in the downturn, especially as customers grow accustomed to paying them. In Las Vegas, they range from a few dollars to $24.99 per night.
A key indicator of tourism demand, called revenue per available room, has dragged this year for MGM Resorts, falling 2 percent in the third quarter compared with a year ago.
While consumers have tightened their purse strings, resort fees are a potential ace in the hole for the company. MGM Resorts generated $20 million from resort fees in the third quarter and would have reported increased revenue per room had the company included resort fees in the calculation, CEO Jim Murren said during a third quarter conference call last week.
Travelers have criticized the fees because they aren't included in the base rate hotels advertise to the public. Hotel and gaming companies like MGM contend they are a convenience for consumers and have not resulted in a backlash.
"Resort fees are gaining quite a bit of traction," Murren said last week. Even without the fees, Murren said revenue per available room is improving off a depressed base and is expected to be higher in October than it was a year ago.