We’re no rugby rip-off

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Queenstown hotel bosses are trashing claims by Australia’s leading rugby tour operator that they’ll price-gouge during next year’s World Cup. 

We Love Rugby chief Warren Livingstone has blown the whistle on “greedy” New Zealand hoteliers – he claims some will charge 400 to 1000 per cent more than rack rate when the tournament kicks off in spring next year. 

Citing one example, Livingstone alleges Queenstown’s five-star Sofitel will sting punters $940 a night during the semis and final, even though the games are being played in Auckland. 

As NZ’s leading tourist destination, Queenstown’s expecting a huge cash spinoff from overseas fans travelling to the World Cup. The resort’s not hosting any matches, but three teams including star sides England and Ireland are coming for training camps. 

Livingstone, who has more than 4000 Aussie fans pre-registered, says visitors simply won’t come if hotels charge “ridiculous” prices. 

“We’ve seen this at every single World Cup event around the world for 15 years – [hotels] put their prices through the roof thinking [people] are going to pay them and people just don’t book them,” he tells Mountain Scene. 

But Sofitel Queenstown’s general manager Wouter de Graaf, whose hotel normally charges $450 to $500 a night, denies he’s doubling his tariff. 

“I don’t know where [Living­-stone’s] got that from.” 

Sofitel passed a rate to the tournament organisers’ Official Accommodation Bank to sell to wholesalers but that’s confidential, De Graaf says. 

Local Hotel Council chairman John McIlwain states: “We won’t be pricing ourselves anywhere near those numbers they’re talking about in the media.” 

Accor boss Paul Richardson, whose chain has four local properties, including Sofitel, also denies his hotels – which have all given rooms to the Accommodation Bank – are price-gouging. 

“When you add up ticket prices, hotel accommodation, cost of transport, this will still be, on the world stage, an incredibly affordable event.” 

Richardson says hotels won’t release “public pricing” till about a year out from the tournament, which starts September, 2011. 

“We’ll price according to the market – if we price too high we’re not going to get any bookings, if we start to get a lot of bookings we’ll increase our price to slow it down,” Richardson says. 

Richardson has no idea what numbers Queenstown will get, though he expects substantial pre- and post-World Cup business as occurred during the Lions tour five years ago. 

Though hoteliers aren’t revealing tariffs, tournament organisers dropped a clue last week when they stated 230 NZ hotels had sold about 109,000 room nights for $55 million worth of business. 

That’s an average $505 per night – or four times the national average of $130.

Hilton to check in

Expect global five-star brand Hilton to run the first two hotels at Queenstown’s troubled Kawarau Falls Station development. 

Hilton’s expected arrival follows two hotel chains checking out of the $1 billion project after Nigel McKenna’s two development companies went into receivership last May. 

Mountain Scene has sighted an in-house ad for a management position at “Hilton Queenstown”, which calls it “one of the closest hotels to The Remarkables skifield and only a short distance from Queenstown”. 

Both the Hilton hotels are expected to open in September. 

Originally, Starwood Hotels and Resorts was to run a 178-room five-star hotel under its Westin brand. Quadrant, the hotel brand of McKenna company Melview, was to operate a 98-room four-star establishment. 

It’s a second crack at Queenstown for the Hilton chain. Several years ago it was going to manage a $60 million, 103-room hotel by the Pounamu Apartments in Frankton Road, however the development company was liquidated and the hotel’s not been built. 

Hilton already has two hotels in New Zealand – one on Auckland’s waterfront and a redeveloped property in Taupo, which opened last year.
The land-owning company for stages two and three of Kawarau Falls was placed in receivership two weeks ago.