Visitors planning to visit London for the Olympic Games this summer had found that hotel rates were high, along with other holiday costs. However, travellers can now find unexpected bargains in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Hoteliers have paid the price for pushing up room rates for the Games period, with slower bookings. This is because travel operators were advising international holidaymakers to go somewhere else to save money. Many hotels set their rates at up to three times the normal amount, while they normally inflate prices already for the summer. Advance bookings for long-haul tour operators have been heavily impacted by the inflated prices. Their customers – from countries like the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – avoided London in favour of other capitals in Europe.
Last November, a European Tour Operators’ Association survey showed that advance bookings were down 90% for the Olympic Games period compared to the previous year. Executive director Tom Jenkins said at the time that, when the Games are on, the usual tourists will be scared off, as cities are seen as expensive and too hard to travel.
Then at the beginning of June, a JacTravel survey showed that hotels in London were facing profit losses due to one-third of their rooms remaining unsold for the summer. For July and August, it found that hotel bookings in the British capital are down by 35% and 30% respectively. It said that four-star hotel rooms are usually priced between £80 and £120 per night, but inflated prices have seen rates between £200 and £415 a night for the same hotels. Chief executive Mario Bodini said occupancy expectations were overly optimistic, while hotels need sensible prices.
The inflated room rates were blamed on the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). This is due to the organisation blocking some 40,000 rooms from being booked during the period, reserving them for officials and their families. Hotels increased their prices for the rooms they had left over because of this. It wasn’t until just a few months ago that the organisation returned one-fifth of the rooms, leaving hotels without the expected occupancy.
JacTravel chief operating officer Terry Williamson said that this has distorted the marketplace. He also noted that tourist numbers in other Olympic hosting capitals substantially declined and took time to recover.
Now, however, visitors can stay in London for bargain prices, as much as 30% below usual rates at central hotels. JacTravel online director Angela Skelly says rates during the Games have been falling from very inflated levels. After the Games, rates are currently 15% to 20% less than the same time last year, she added.
The rates for 38 rooms at the three-star Tudor Court hotel in Paddington have been reduced an average 33% between August 12 and September 9. For just £81 a night, guests can book a double ensuite room for two with breakfast. In August, a room at the four-star Hilton Metropole will only cost £160 but £238 in September.
On top of declining hotel prices, theatres have cut their prices to compensate for a 20% bookings slump – some West End theatre tickets are being sold at half price. Blockbusters like Shrek The Musical and Billy Elliot are being discounted heavily. Additionally, some of the most exclusive restaurants in the city – like Le Caprice – have a lot of availability.
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