Sky-high Olympic room rates being reduced

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Sky-high Olympic room rates being reduced

A campaign has started in Gangneung, Gangwon, to lower hotel and motel rates during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February after sky-high rates were widely criticized.

One motel charged a nightly rate of 900,000 won ($819) and faced a backlash on social media. “I’d rather buy a widescreen TV and watch the Olympics at home than be ripped off by absurd costs of lodging and tickets,” wrote one person.

To restore the host city’s image, Son Jung-ho, head of the Gangneung branch of the Korea Accommodations Industry Association, started a campaign to cut hotel and motel rates by half, and to refund the difference to people who already made reservations.

“Though reservations have already been made, I will lower accommodation fees from 300,000 won to 150,000 won,” said Son on Nov. 30 at a press conference in Gangneung City Hall.

Son manages SM Hotel in Gangneung, which has 45 rooms. “Through this campaign I hope Gangneung can leave behind its disgraced reputation for ripping visitors off,” said Son, “and I think accommodation charges will be stabilized with more people participating in the campaign.”

With only 65 days left until the Winter Olympics, owners of lodging facilities feel even more pressure after the International Olympic Committee banned Russian athletes over a doping scandal.

After hearing about that ban, one motel on the city’s Gangmun Beach lowered nightly rates from 300,000 to 150,000, while another guesthouse reduced its rate from 80,000 to 50,000 won.

One motel with 17 rooms near Anmok Beach in Gangneung decreased nightly rates from 250,000 won to 100,000.

“I significantly lowered the price because such ‘abusive’ costs would bring a negative impact on Gangneung’s tourism in the long run,” said its owner.

Gangneung City Mayor Choi Myeong-hee announced that the city will aggressively crack down on lodging facilities that are charging high accommodation fees.

Some owners in Pyeongchang county have decided to follow Gangneung’s lead.

“If we charge a ludicrous amount for lodging,” explained a hotel owner in the county, “it would reflect poorly on the county’s image. But we also need to work on reducing excessive charges by travel agencies, as well.”

BY PARK JIN-HO, LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]

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