The Dark Side of the Olympics (Part 1) – Hotel Buyers Beware!

We featured a few weeks ago the fees that the Olympic Delivery Authority paid to CLM, the Olympic “delivery partner” who actually did a large part of the procurement and contract management work in terms of the Olympic venue construction.

They were considerable, although we do believe that CLM did a great job. The wider reaction to our story was interesting – virtually nil. I asked a friend of mine who is a journalist on a major newspaper if this was a story for him - it was the first time anyone had looked at those costs after all. No, he said, “we’re pretty positive about the Olympics here”. No bad news allowed.

So, let’s be the party poopers . We’re playing devil’s advocate, to be clear – there are undoubtedly a lot for positives around the Olympics, including some excellent procurement work. But, going back a bit, we think a lot of the data about employing "local people" on the site construction work was rubbish. There’s been no evidence of improved employment data in East London that I’ve seen.

Then, we get to the hotel situation. There’s been an outcry about the price of hotels in the Ukraine in particular for the 2012 European football championships. Michel Platini called them “swindlers” last week. Reuters reported him as saying: "You cannot raise prices from 40 euros ($52.48) to 100 euros to 500 euros from one day to the next," added the president of European soccer's ruling body. "That is just not done."

Disgraceful, isn’t it? Of course hotels in the UK wouldn’t do anything like that, would they?

Well... we did a quick survey at the end of last week, looking at hotel prices for the London Olympics period. We looked at three days during the Olympics, compared to the same days of the week a month earlier, using Expedia. Note that these prices were correct at the time we acccessed Expedia.

And we found some superb examples of opportunistic pricing.

Take a bow, the Camelot House Hotel near Paddington. Three nights – Friday to Monday - in a double or twin room in July will set you back £355.04. The same Friday to Monday stay during the Olympics? £2653.77 no less. That’s over £800 a night for a 3 star hotel, and one that has been awarded a mark of one out of five by Expedia users.

But they’re far from the only ones. The Pacific Hotel in the same lovely area of London has rates varying from £349.04 in July up to £1577.85 for three nights in the peak Olympic period. Even the London Eye Hostel is cashing in with a rate of over £100 a night for a bed in a 14-person dormitory during the big event.

Take a bow, however, the very fine Grand Hotel off Trafalgar Square. Their rate for 3 nights is just £1184.40 during the Olympics, which isn’t cheap, but represents a mere twice their cheapest usual rate.  That seems to represent a reasonable premium, and pretty good value for what looks like a four-star plus hotel in a great location, with good customer reviews.

I don’t blame the places that are pushing their luck – goodness knows, running a small 3 star hotel in London must be a pretty soul-destroying job at the best of times. Cash in for a couple of weeks while you can. But let’s not pretend we’re somehow any different from the Ukrainians who are similarly taking advantage of their big sporting moment!

The scenic Paddington locality attracts many visitors

And advice for anyone reading this who doesn’t know London too well - don’t book a dodgy hotel around Paddington that gets bad Trip Advisor or Expedia user reviews. There are some real dives that aren’t worth £600 a week, let alone £600 a night. Stay out of town, somewhere like Woking, or Watford, that has excellent transport links into London. Woking is 25 minutes into Waterloo, so 40 minutes  from Trafalgar Square (about the same as it’ll take you from a hotel in Paddington or Kensington probably). And you'll get a much better deal.

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Voices (3)

  1. bitter and twisted:

    Why not go the whole hog – fly to Barbados, and watch it on TV.

  2. Karla Brooklyn:

    Also look at somewhere like Oxford. Really fast to get into Paddington, and also means that after the event you are seeing you are going back to a beautiful market town where you can enjoy a night out without the massive London expense. Also close to Bicester Village for great shopping. I have stayed a few times at The White Hart Hotel and booked through for a great price.

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