Lodgings take hit from rising energy prices

Montana State Roundup

Published July 1, 2001  | July 2001 issue

Montana visitors may be surprised when they receive their lodging bills: Some hotels and motels have begun imposing surcharges of up to $3 per night to defray rising energy costs.

The Billings Hotel and Convention Center was the first operation to add the energy charge of $2.75 per room after natural gas and electricity costs rose from about $25,000 per month to up to $45,000. Montana is not alone: Similar businesses in California and about 30 other states have resorted to surcharges to cope with rapidly rising energy prices.

Not all Montana hotels and motels have instituted the surcharge, nor do they need to—yet. About 150 hotels and motels buy their electricity through the Montana Innkeepers Association and are locked in at current rates until mid-2002; however, some of the same businesses may be experiencing substantial increases in natural gas rates.

State government officials do not support the idea of an energy surcharge, however. According to the Department of Administration's Accounting and Management Support Division, state employees will not be reimbursed for energy surcharges, saying that energy costs should be incorporated into the basic room charge. The state is recommending that employees stay in hotels and motels that do not have an energy surcharge.

Kathy Cobb