By Lee Reaney
Kyiv – With over 100,000 international fans expected to arrive in Kyiv for the Champions League Final on 26 May, the city is hoping to cash in.
Airlines, taxi drivers, restaurant owners, and street performers all hope to get a cut from the boost in tourism.
But one group has come under scrutiny and faced allegations of unscrupulous pricing: Kyiv’s hoteliers.
Low Supply & High Demand
Critics have focused on three main areas: lack of hotel rooms, cost of accommodation, and the cancellation of early bookings.
According to the City Tourism Department, Kyiv had 12,258 hotel rooms at the end of 2016, with another 916 expected to open last year. Kyiv City Council expects at least 100,000 fans for the 25-27 May weekend, meaning the city has fewer than one room for every 13 fans.
Those fans have had great difficulty finding accommodation.
Jesper Henriksen, General Manager and City Director of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group that includes hotels such as the Radisson Blu and the Park Inn (located next to Olympic Stadium), understands.
“The whole city is full”, he tells the UBJ. “We are at 100 percent occupancy for the weekend, when we are at 35 to 40 percent on average.”
Two weeks before the event, Booking.com lists the city as 81 percent reserved, while Airbnb.com is 88 percent reserved, and Hostelworld.com has no available bookings at all.
The limited supply of accommodation and high demand are leading to a dramatic surge in pricing.
“Rates are much higher than a regular weekend, but the Champions League is much bigger than Eurovision (held in Kyiv in 2017); it’s even bigger than the Euro Championships (held in Kyiv in 2012),” says Henriksen. “We were at only 60 percent occupancy during Eurovision.”
Kyiv saw 55 percent occupancy during the 2012 Euro championships – a 20 percent hike from the average rate – when 500,000 tourists visited the city. There were 8,773 hotel rooms at the time.
Room Rates Soar
While definitive numbers are not yet available, there has been a large surge in room pricing for the Champions League weekend.
Rooms are selling for as much as 8,000 USD per night. Some properties normally listed for 21 USD per night are now listed for 7,250 USD. Less than 25 properties are selling for under 350 USD per night.
On Airbnb.com, the average price is 1,140 USD per night, going to as high as 9,000 USD per night. One month later the average is 128 USD per night.
Before selling out, hostel rates were as high as 500 USD per month.
The prices have some football fans reconsidering their travels to Kyiv.
Kent Solberg is a long-time Liverpool fan from Oslo, Norway, considering a trip to Kyiv for the game.
“The rentals in Kyiv were crazy right after the semifinals – I saw prices up to 20,000 Euros per night”, he tells the UBJ. “With tickets being so expensive – from 1,500 to 3,500 Euros per ticket – accommodation prices might prevent me from travelling. A budget trip to Kyiv for the finals could cost 3,500 Euros in total.”
It also has some hotels trying to get out of reservations made earlier, when room rates were not selling for as much.
One hotel claims a virus attack opened their reservation system for those dates, while another says the property will not have water or electricity during that weekend. Both hotels had taken prior reservations for the Champions League weekend.
Kyiv City Will Investigate
In response to the criticisms, Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine (ACU) Head Alexiy Khmelnytskyi announced that the committee has started to officially look into hotel pricing.
“Due to the excitement caused by reports of rising hotel prices for the duration of the Champions League finals”, he says on Facebook, “the Kyiv office of ACU began official monitoring of the market for hotel services in the capital.”
He adds that there is nothing out of the ordinary to report yet.
“I hope that prices will stabilize according to the market”, he says, “because demand drives not only the price, but also the supply. Higher prices during sports events is a common market practice, but increases of hundreds of percentage points isn’t normal.”
Kyiv citizens are also loathe to have the price-gouging tag attached to the city.
Hundreds of citizens are offering rooms and beds for free to counter the negative publicity. The group #FreeKyivCouch4Fans has nearly 5,000 members in less than a week.
“We don’t want Kyiv remembered as the capital of hustlers”, says the group. “Local people are ready to host for free.”
Ukrainian train carrier Ukrzaliznytsia has also stepped up to offer fans affordable accommodations near Kyiv’s Central Train Station. The company is offering budget rooms from 7.50 to 26.00 USD per night.
“It is common knowledge that there is a shortage of hotels in the capital to receive so many guests at once”, says the company in a press release, “the company has already had such experience during Euro 2012 and Eurovision.”
Is Kyiv charging more than other host cities?
Last year’s final in Cardiff, Wales faced similar problems. Limited hotel rooms in the second-smallest city to host the global mega-event meant hotel prices soared to 4,125 USD. Even at those prices, the entire city sold out.
Budget camping options were still 160 USD per night, while the average nightly rate in Cardiff was 1,200 per night – an average increase of roughly 915 percent – forcing fans to smaller centres more than an hour away.
Those centres, like Bath and Bristol, saw hotel rate increases of up to 400 percent.
Like Kyiv and Cardiff, those cities also sold out in advance of the event.
A two-night stay in Cardiff last year set fans back 2,400 USD. For comparison, average room rates for last year’s Super Bowl in Houston, Texas were 652 USD.
This is nothing new for one of the world’s most sought-after tickets. Average hotel prices in Lisbon, host of the 2014 final, jumped 1,202 percent with rooms selling for as much as 7,750 USD a night.
Posted May 14, 2018.