For two weeks in summer 2012, London’s hotels will become the most desirable real estate in the world. Thousands will flock to enjoy the world-renowned spectacle that is these quadrennial games, happening in the UK capital for the first time since 1948.
You can’t be sluggish in booking a hotel for the London Olympics, as the race to secure rooms has already begun. Recently-confirmed ticket holders have been snapping up space in the city’s most sought-after hotels.
Add to that the fact that LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (just try saying that fast!), is block-booking 40% of central London hotels for sponsors, officials and the like and it’s no wonder there’s been a mad scramble for rooms.
For example, the Firmdale Group’s boutique London hotels including the Soho Hotel, Haymarket Hotel, Covent Garden Hotel and Charlotte Street Hotel have been entirely booked out by LOCOG – as has half of The Dorchester. The 200 rooms at Claridge’s are also reserved for private bookings and the Baglioni Hotel is apparently also full.
But all is not lost. We’ve been informed that some top London hotels are still yet to start booking guests for the Olympic period. The Dorchester, The Savoy, The Connaught, the Landmark London, The Ritz and Royal Garden Hotel are all suspected to publish their rates later in August – although you’ll need to be pretty fast on the booking trigger when they do.
Top tips to secure a room for the Olympics
1. Think suburbs. You get free public transport on the day of your event with your ticket, so do widen your search to find more available (and usually much cheaper) accommodation. There are often good train links from places in zones 5 and 6 of the London Underground network.
2. Stay on the pulse of new openings. New hotels are springing up all over London in anticipation of the Olympics. Many will only begin taking bookings a matter of months or even weeks before the games, so keep your eyes peeled on this blog for the latest news of fresh hotel capacity!
3. Hold out for a late price slash. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, hoteliers slashed prices when rooms stayed unoccupied; so if you’re prepared to wait, bargains may emerge. But this is a high-risk strategy as London is always a tight market and it’s unlikely that last-minute prices will drop. Not recommended unless you have a fallback option!
4. Hold out for a late release of pre-booked rooms. Some of the room allocations booked for the Olympics may not be fully taken up. Those rooms could therefore be released to the public in the 2nd quarter of 2012 – but as with “late price slash” this is a high-risk strategy. It may though be combined with waiting for new hotel openings (above).
5. Consider not staying in London. For example, this blog has covered the delights of Brighton and Windsor – both are actually within commuting distance of London via frequent train and direct bus services. There are many other options including Cambridge and parts of Essex and Kent.
6. Think out of the box. For example you could try couchsurfing or houseswapping as an alternative to booking a hotel, or even a boutique B&B. Or what about a floating London hotel?
Ultimately, it’s a finely-poised decision between trying to secure the best rate you can get today or playing a canny waiting game. It boils down to a trade-off between your desire for certainty vs relative value for money.
Photo credits: London 2012, The Soho Hotel, The Connaught.
Note: the research for this article is based on a snapshot and the situation is constantly changing, so please ensure you do your own careful research.