Poles planning a special welcome for Green Army
THOUSANDS of hotel beds in the Polish cities where Ireland will play in Euro 2012 are being held back to test the market, the Irish Independent has learned.
Local tourism chiefs in Gdansk and Poznan were thrilled to draw Giovanni Trapattoni's team for the games because they know Irish fans have a tradition of travelling to tournaments in large numbers.
But hoteliers are holding back many of the rooms in order to determine demand -- and, with it, the prices they will charge.
However, there is some good news for fans who have yet to secure a bed. There are plans to release thousands of beds in university dorms for use, and fans will also be able to stay with Polish families.
These are likely to prove the cheapest options, but full details will only come on stream in the next three to four weeks.
While many fans are anxious to get accommodation booked, they are being advised that much of the planning for extra beds is not completed. It means they are likely to get much better value if they wait and book closer to the games.
Martin Kitson of the 'In Your Pocket' guidebook for Gdansk -- where Ireland will play Spain on June 14 -- said he believes everyone will find a place to stay.
The city council is putting together a website which will help fans to book homestays.
The Sasiedzi -- or neighbour -- plan will see a homeowner temporarily move in with their neighbour and rent their home to fans.
This way two households benefit from the influx of tourists -- and it will also help avoid scams as three parties will be involved in the deal. This scheme will be launched on the city website in the coming weeks.
"You will find somewhere to put your head down," said Mr Kitson. "Yes, you might have to go to a bar and have a few drinks, but you'll get talking to people and you'll get a room."
The local council in Gdansk is still finalising extra accommodation but they are already aware of hotels overcharging.
"There's no way to stop it," said Michal Brandt from the mayor's office when asked about the problem.
"We're meeting with the hotels and making it clear that if they exaggerate the rates, not only will people leave, they will also never come to Gdansk again."
He said hotels and guesthouses were charging two to three times their normal rates -- but that guesthouses were "still affordable".
However, he warned fans that at the moment they have no plans for extra spaces for camper vans. They had planned a special carpark for them if they drew Holland -- but scrapped the idea after they drew Ireland.
A "fan village" will be set up in Sopot, near to where the team are staying, but no camper vans will be permitted to stay there.
Authorities in Gdansk and Poznan are also working together to allow fans to book beds in both cities in one online transaction.
They are expanding the polishpass.org website which will also allow fans to book their train and bus tickets along with their accommodation.
The majority of fans are planning to stay in Poznan as two games are being played there on June 10 and 18. Some will stay in Gdansk on June 14 but many are planning to travel the five hours via road just for the day of the match.
Poznan has about 7,000 hotel beds. However, Michal Prymas, who is heading up the Euro 2012 preparations, said they expected to be able to accommodate 60,000 people.
Because of its tradition of hosting conferences, Poznan has a history of locals offering rooms to travellers who arrive at bus and train stations.
And it is expected that anyone who arrives without accommodation will find a bed.
"If we see someone who needs help, they will get it," Mr Prymas said. "No one will be staying on the street."
Local tourism chiefs are expecting that more hotels will release rooms closer to the games, with fans who booked early not necessarily getting the best value.
A number of high-end hotels, including the Sheraton, are booked out. However, others, such as two-star Hotel Gold, are not releasing any rooms until late in February. Very Berry Hostel still has rooms available from June 9 to 19.
A double room with a shared bathroom is €180 per night while a room with a private bathroom is €230 per night. Apartments beside the train station can be rented from Apartmenty Velvet from €130 per night.
Hotels are also available via travel agents with the two-star Hotel Atrium Centrum, which is about 20km from the stadium, charging €210 on match night and €126 on other nights.
The three-star Hotel Blues is charging €372 on match night and €232 on other nights.
StayPoland.com also has hundreds of beds ranging from €43 per night in city centre locations. Double rooms are available on the website from June 9 to 19 for less than €600.
A number of campsites, which will host thousands of fans, will be established around the city. Hundreds of fans are also planning to stay in Torun, which is halfway between Gdansk and Poznan.