IN today’s Scotsman, I have a story about soaring hotel costs in Glasgow during next summer’s Commonwealth Games. With tickets having gone on sale earlier this week, people from around the world will be starting to put together tentative travel itineraries, hopeful that they will be able to take their place for one of the biggest events in Scotland’s modern history.
While the hundreds of thousands of tickets reserved for sponsors and corporate partners will stick in the craw of those who miss out on a seat at their chosen events, the organisers of the Games should be commended for their ticketing strategy, with two thirds of all briefs costing £25 or less allied to concessions for the young and old. It forms a keynote of their message – that Glasgow 2014 offers an affordable and accessible means of watching the world’s best athletes.
They have, and continue to work alongside the like of Glasgow City Council and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau to ensure that prices for accommodation are fair and even-handed. Unfortunately, their reach can only go so far. My story points out that some rooms in some hotels will cost as much as £6,000 for the duration of the Games. Even those planning a short stint – for example, arriving on the day of the 100 metres final – are being asked to pay £500 for a bed for the night in modest accommodation which normally asks as little as £32.
These prices are being advertised via major travel booking portals such as Expedia, used the world over by tourists from the Commonwealth and elsewhere. For many people coming to Glasgow, these websites will be their first port of call. No matter strong their resolve to be part of the Games, there is a danger that such excessive prices will deter them from travelling, and give an unfair and damaging perception that Glasgow, that friendliest of cities, is ready to milk its visitors dry.
One of the hotels identified in the search, Jurys Inn, insists that the high prices are an anomaly used to prevent a run on bookings while occupancy levels are established with online booking agents. That may be the case, but why not simply have a ‘not available’ sign in the meantime? The fact remains that the exorbitant rates are there for potential tourists to balk at, and should their pockets prove deep enough, book.
Despite the assistance of the Scottish Government and the nation’s largest local authority, it seems there is very little Glasgow 2014 can do to prevent these prices appearing. Many hotels have yet to accept bookings given that the Games are still some way off, and as always, people should look to book via hotels directly for the best offers. But for the sake of everyone hoping for a successful Games, we should hope that potential international spectators did not scoff at the first page of their Google search, and opt for a week in the sun instead.