Understanding Hotel Price Gouging: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Have you ever booked a hotel room only to find out later that you paid way more than you should have?

If you’re wondering whether you were a victim of hotel price gouging, this article will help you understand what it is and how to avoid it.

We’ll cover everything from the definition of price gouging to the laws that protect you, and give you tips on how to avoid overpaying for your next hotel stay.

What is hotel price gouging?

Hotel price gouging is the act of charging excessively high prices for hotel rooms during high-demand periods, such as holidays, sporting events, or conferences. The practice of price gouging takes advantage of consumers who have limited options or are unaware of the true market value of the hotel room.

Definition of price gouging

Price gouging is generally defined as the practice of charging exorbitant or excessive prices for goods or services during a time of crisis or emergency. In the case of hotel price gouging, it occurs during high-demand periods when hotels raise their prices to maximize profits.

Examples of hotel price gouging

Examples of hotel price gouging can include charging significantly higher rates for rooms during popular events and festivals, or during peak travel seasons. For instance, during the Super Bowl, hotels in the host city may charge triple or quadruple their normal rates. Similarly, hotels in popular vacation spots may increase their rates during school holidays or summer months.

  • A hotel charging $500 per night for a room during a regular season, but then charges $1,500 per night during a high-demand event.
  • A hotel charging significantly higher rates than its competitors during a high-demand period.

How to identify hotel price gouging

Here are some ways to identify hotel price gouging:

  • Compare the hotel’s rates to those of nearby hotels during the same period. If the rates are significantly higher, it could be a sign of price gouging.
  • Check the hotel’s rates during different times of the year to see if there are any sudden price increases during high-demand periods.
  • Research the average rates for hotels in the area during the same period to get a better understanding of the market value of the hotel room.

By being aware of the market value and doing a little research, you can avoid falling victim to hotel price gouging.

Laws protecting consumers from price gouging

Price gouging is a phenomenon that occurs when a seller increases prices significantly higher than the normal or fair value of a product or service due to high demand or limited availability. Price gouging can be seen in many industries, including hotels. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect consumers from price gouging, both at the state and federal levels.

State laws

Most states have laws that protect consumers from price gouging during a state of emergency, such as a natural disaster or a pandemic. These laws usually prohibit businesses from charging excessive prices for essential goods and services, such as food, water, and hotel rooms. The specifics of the laws vary by state, but they typically define price gouging as an increase of more than 10-25% above the pre-emergency price.

Consumers who believe they have been subject to price gouging can file a complaint with their state’s attorney general’s office or consumer protection agency. Some states also have hotlines that consumers can call to report price gouging.

Federal laws

There is currently no federal law that specifically addresses price gouging. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can take action against sellers who engage in deceptive or unfair practices, including price gouging. The FTC has stated that it will be closely monitoring businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent price gouging.

How to report price gouging

If you believe you have been a victim of price gouging, you should report it to the appropriate authorities. This may include your state’s attorney general’s office, consumer protection agency, or the FTC. You should provide as much information as possible, including the name and location of the business, the product or service that was subject to price gouging, and any receipts or other documentation you have.

It’s important to note that not all price increases are considered price gouging. Businesses may raise prices due to increased costs or limited supply, as long as the increase is proportional to the increase in costs. However, if you believe a price increase is unreasonable or unfair, you should report it to the appropriate authorities.

Factors that influence hotel prices

Hotel prices can fluctuate greatly based on a variety of factors. Understanding these factors can help you avoid being a victim of hotel price gouging. Here are some of the key factors that influence hotel prices:


One of the biggest factors that can influence hotel prices is the time of year that you’re traveling. Hotels in popular tourist destinations tend to charge more during peak season, while prices may drop during the off-season. For example, hotels in beach towns may be more expensive during the summer months when more people are vacationing, but prices may be lower during the fall or winter when fewer people are traveling.


The location of the hotel can also impact the price. Hotels in popular tourist areas or major cities may be more expensive than hotels in less popular destinations. Additionally, hotels located in prime locations such as near the beach or in the heart of a city’s downtown area may charge more for their rooms.

Hotel Amenities

The amenities offered by a hotel can also affect the price. Hotels with more amenities, such as a pool, spa, or restaurant, may charge more than hotels with fewer amenities. However, these extra amenities may be worth the additional cost if you plan on using them during your stay.


The level of competition in a particular market can also impact hotel prices. If there are many hotels in a certain area, they may lower their prices to attract more guests. Conversely, if there are only a few hotels in a certain area, they may charge more because they know that travelers don’t have many other options.

By understanding these factors, you can make more informed decisions when booking a hotel room and avoid being taken advantage of by hotels that engage in price gouging.

Tips to avoid hotel price gouging

If you’re planning a trip, you’re probably looking to get the best possible deal on your hotel stay. Unfortunately, some hotels engage in price gouging, a practice where they raise prices on rooms during high-demand periods, such as holidays and special events. Here are some tips to help you avoid hotel price gouging:

Book Early or Last Minute

One of the best ways to avoid hotel price gouging is to book your room well in advance. Hotels often offer discounts to customers who book early, and you’ll have a better chance of snagging a good deal if you plan ahead. On the other hand, if you’re willing to take a risk, you can try booking a room at the last minute. Hotels sometimes offer deep discounts to fill empty rooms, so you might be able to get a great deal if you’re flexible with your travel plans.

Use Price Comparison Websites

Another way to avoid hotel price gouging is to use price comparison websites. These sites allow you to compare prices from different hotels in the same area, so you can find the best deal. Some popular price comparison websites include Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline. Keep in mind that some hotels don’t list their rooms on these sites, so you might also want to check the hotel’s website directly.

Negotiate with the Hotel

If you’re booking directly with a hotel, it’s worth trying to negotiate the price. Call the hotel and ask if they can offer you a better rate than what’s listed online. If you’re booking a large group of rooms, you might be able to get a discount. You can also ask if the hotel offers any special promotions or discounts for the dates you’re traveling.

Join Loyalty Programs

Many hotels offer loyalty programs that provide perks and discounts to frequent guests. These programs are often free to join and can save you money on future stays. If you frequently travel to the same destination, it’s worth signing up for the loyalty program at your favorite hotel chain. You might also want to consider using a hotel-branded credit card, which can offer additional discounts and rewards.

Tip Pros Cons
Book Early -Better chance of getting a good deal
-More options for room types
-Less flexibility with travel dates
-No opportunity for last-minute deals
Use Price Comparison Websites -Allows you to compare prices from different hotels
-Can find the best deal
-Some hotels don’t list their rooms on these sites
Negotiate with the Hotel -Can get a better rate than what’s listed online
-May be able to get discounts for large groups
-Not all hotels offer negotiation
-May have limited availability for discounted rooms
Join Loyalty Programs -Can save you money on future stays
-May offer additional perks and rewards
-May have restrictions on when rewards can be used
-May require a minimum number of stays to earn rewards

By following these tips, you can avoid hotel price gouging and save money on your next trip. Remember to plan ahead, compare prices, negotiate, and join loyalty programs to get the best possible deal.


In conclusion, hotel price gouging is a real issue that affects many travelers. However, by understanding what it is and the laws that protect you, you can avoid falling victim to it.

Remember to always do your research, compare prices, and negotiate with hotels if necessary. By following these tips, you can save money on your next hotel stay and enjoy a stress-free vacation.

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