Hotels hit out at claims of price-ramping

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Hoteliers have hit back at claims that people stuck in London because of the terrorist attacks were forced to pay higher prices than usual.

InterContinental Hotels Group, which has a Holiday Inn site near the bus explosion in Bloomsbury, said it offered reduced rates and Novotel, the French owned group which has a 312-room hotel just by Kings Cross station where 21 people died, said there were no changes to rates.

Bob Cotton of the British Hospitality Association which represents the industry said he had come across no evidence of higher prices and said Hilton had even been offering rooms at a lower rate than usual. But he pointed out that the way hotels rooms are sold might have led to perceptions that prices were increased.

“Hotel rooms are being sold in the same way as airline tickets. Occupancy is very high at the moment and in a rising market you get a better deal if you book in advance. Someone might have pre-booked a room for £99 and then come in on Thursday night and seen that the price was quoted at £150 - That is the ‘rack rate’ - the full official price.”

Mr Cotton said anyone stranded in the capital faced having to find a room during one of the busiest weeks of the year as summer visitors had started to pour in and corporate customers were still around because the school holidays had not started.

He added that many big companies had booked rooms for key staff when they realised how difficult it would be to commute in the evening and that had put more pressure on the capital’s 100,000 hotel rooms.

David Michels, chief executive of Hilton Group, said the Euston Hilton hotel had been closed to guests and used by the Metropolitan Police on Thursday. Meanwhile, the London Metropolitan hotel was used as a triage centre.

A message was sent to the group’s London hotels, which had about 90 per cent occupancy overall, that the remainder of rooms were to be made available at one-third of the normal rate to anyone who needed to stay the night in London because of the transport problems.

“What we didn’t do was publicise it, because if we did that it’s an act of PR... I don’t think it’s just my group, my guess is most of the (hotel) groups did similar,” he said.

Although events such as dinners and banquets were cancelled on Thursday night and for the next two nights, Mr Michels said travellers seemed to be becoming more resiliant to such events.

“About 70 per cent of our customers in London are overseas guests and they could still cancel, but at the moment it’s been surprisingly little,” he said.

Leslie McGibbon of InterContinental Hotel Group said: “Our hotel in Bloomsbury worked very closely with the rescue services providing towels and blankets and showers and. We certainly did not raise our prices and we were also waiving cancellation fees.”

He said there had been extra customers but they had been balanced out by people who could not make it into London cancelling their bookings.

Meanwhile, there was a mixed picture from the pubs and bars in the capital. Many, even outside the cordoned off areas around Aldgate, Liverpool Street, Kings Cross Edgware Road and Blooomsbury, were closed.

Mitchells &Butler pubs in central areas of London did not open on Thursday. But others that decided to open were busier than usual. Michael Quinn, landlord of the Three Lords in Aldgate - the site of the first incident - said the trade and atmosphere had been surprisingly normal considering the events. “It is always busy here and some of the regulars did not come in but other people did and we were very packed.

“I think everyone was in a bit of shock, but when they realised that everyone they knew was okay they seemed to adjust to the idea,” he said.

Balls Brothers, the City of London wine bar chain, said it closed three of its bars near Liverpool Street Station all Thursday. Its remaining bars were open at lunchtime but closed early in the evening because of “concern among customers and staff about getting home.”

Additional reporting by Kate Mackenzie

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