A Golden time for London hotels
THERE'S still time to book a cut-price hotel room, and even bag a last-minute ticket, for some Olympic action in London
With only days left until the Olympics, hotel rates in London are plunging by up to 65% because the impact of the Games on summer tourism has been dramatically overestimated by planners, according to Travelzoo.
And it's possible that late arrivals could grab some of the best deals.
For the Trivago hotel price index says recent hotel bookings in London for the July 27 to August 11 period hit an average of €310, against a €122 average for the rest of Europe, and 75% up on the London average for August 2011.
On the most expensive day - July 28 - the average peaks at €320, says Trivago. But it admits prices have been falling in recent months.
Now that hotel prices look much softer, many travellers could make last-minute plans to see Olympic events, following reports that Locog, the Olympic organising committee, has bought "tens of thousands" of unsold tickets to sell to the public. More than 400,000 tickets could still be available in the public system.
Joel Brandon-Bravo, UK managing director of Travelzoo, says: "We have more hotels with offers than we have space for in our top 20, since we only include one London hotel offer each week.
"Many hotels kept inventory back, hoping interest in the Olympics would allow them to charge top rates. As with the royal wedding, however, many hoteliers may have overestimated demand and are stuck with empty rooms to fill.
"August is traditionally a quiet time for many London hotels, and a post-Olympics lull points to the best deals in late August.
"Those coming to London during the Olympics will have to look a bit harder for deals, but shouldn't have to pay rates previously highlighted in the media."
The latest Travelzoo deals include 30% off stays at Claridge's in the heart of Mayfair - from €350 per night on stays between August 13 and September 9, subject to availability.
Another leading hotel deals website, Secret Escapes, confirms the pain is greatest among the pricier hotels: through an offer exclusive to this website, Apex City of London offers up to 54% off, with rooms from €241 per night between July 27 and August 12.
With predicted high-occupancy rates and sky-high prices for London hotels during the Games hastily revised down, Secret Escapes claims hotel revenue managers are keener than ever to find new ways of boosting occupancy.
Secret Escapes founder Tom Valentine says: "Prices and occupancy rates during the Olympics were always difficult to predict, and we're very happy to be able to support the Games by helping hotels clear their existing supply."
For last-minute Olympic visitors chasing a ticket - plus a hotel - Thomas Cook, official short break provider to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has launched a range of new offers.
The new packages, starting at €254 each, include the opening and closing ceremonies and finals for athletics, cycling, swimming, diving and equestrian.
Stephen Vaughan, managing director of Thomas Cook's London 2012 partnership, says: "This special offer on some remaining Games Breaks is in response to what our customers want - the best seats at the Games with the most affordable hotels.
"These offers will not be around long - the opening ceremony is days away and attention is focused on the Games as the British public gets behind Team GB."
Thomas Cook's Games Breaks include a London Travelcard for the day of the event and breakfast at the hotel. They are great for those who've already managed to get a ticket in the ballot and now want a longer Olympic experience.
In this final sale, Thomas Cook's offers include the men's 200m semi-final, men's 110m hurdles final and women's 200m final (August 8) from €509, including B&B in a four-star hotel at Brentford Lock. A ticket for the equestrian eventing jumping final (July 30) costs €254 , with accommodation at the four-star Novotel London Heathrow.
Swimming fans can bag a ticket for the category B Olympic finals (August 1) from €269, including an overnight stay at the four-star Holiday Inn Heathrow M4.
Among leading hotel chains, Best Western has special offers at several London hotels: at Best Western Palm Hotel, a short walk from Camden Market in north-west London, the lead-in rate is just €236 per room per night.
At Best Western Burns Hotel Earls Court, a two minutes' walk from Earls Court Tube station, rooms start at €223; at nearby Best Western Cromwell Hotel, south Kensington, the lead-in is £195. Close to Gloucester Road Tube station, this quaint hotel is in a quiet, central location.
If you are happy to self-cater during your stay, central London apartments bookable at this late stage start at €45 per person per night, says HomeAway.co.uk.
The website features more than 700 private apartments still available to rent in the capital during the event: options include an eight-storey tower built in the 1800s with five bedrooms in Greenwich, which sleeps 10 and enjoys panoramic views, costing €9,563 per week.
An elegant one-bedroom apartment close to Hyde Park sleeping two costs €274 per night, and a two- bedroom apartment in Victoria costs €255 per night, with Wi-Fi internet and Sky TV. There is a porter, communal roof terrace and a secure basement car park.
According to HomeAway.co.uk, visitors are likely to find the best value for money in the London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon and Enfield, where average prices start from €298 for a studio flat to €2,312 (both per week) for a five-bedroom house.
The most expensive boroughs are Greenwich and Westminster, with weekly rates peaking at €10,839 for a five-bedroom property.
At The Victoria Park House Company, a one-bedroom flat sleeping three, overlooking London Fields, costs €765 for three nights, while larger groups or families can choose from two, three and four-bedroom houses or lofts.
For example, Deuce, a three-bedroom house with garden, sleeping six, costs €2,410 for three nights during the Olympics, which works out at €134 per person per night - and it's just a 15-minute walk to the Olympic Park.