The handing back of around 120,000 room nights by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) could be a mixed blessing for hotels.
As part of the bid to host the 2012 games, LOCOG made agreements with hotels to provide more than 600,000 room nights - at rates agreed in 2007 - for officials, sponsors and the media. However, they always promised to hand back those which were not needed.
Robert Flinter, general manager of the four-star, 179-bedroom Apex City of London hotel, said that LOCOG had kept the entire 65% allocation of its rooms during the Olympics, but had returned all the rooms allocated during the three weeks prior to the event and the four weeks after (including the Paralympics).
"It is good news that we have had the rooms returned for early July as the Farnborough Air Show, which takes place only once every two years, is being held from 9 to 15 July and we will be able to sell the rooms at good rates," Flinter said.
"However, it is going to be more tricky to sell the rooms during the Paralympics in early September as it is unlikely that the corporate business is going to come back to London until after the end of the games on 9 September."
Flinter believes that both leisure and corporate customers are not booking London hotels during July and August because of the widespread stories in the consumer press regarding inflated room prices. In reality, he said, the majority - including the 20 hotels within the E1 association of 20 four- and five-star hotels in east London, of which he is chairman - were not charging excessive prices during and around the Olympics.
"It would be foolish of us to do so for what would be a short-term gain that could damage long-term relationships," he explained. "It is vital that London & Partners gets the message out there that London will be affordable during the summer.
Miles Quest, spokesperson for the British Hospitality Association, said that stories of extreme price increases were grossly exaggerated. "Look at the Premier Inn website, for example, and you will see only modest price increases. There are other examples, too."
London & Partners, the official promotional body for the capital, said that it was working hard to dispel the myth that hotels in the city would be unfairly priced.
"We are banging the drum via the media and the travel agents that hotel bedrooms are available at all levels at reasonable prices," said London & Partners head of communications, Chloe Couchman. "I think London hotels have learnt from previous Olympic host cities and the Royal Wedding that it doesn't pay to charge excessive prices."
By Janet Harmer
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