Supercars warns Newcastle hotels to lower rates

Supercars officials say hotel price gouging during the Newcastle 500 will hurt the event and the city.

Some inner-city hotels are charging more than $1000 a night during the three-day race weekend from November 24 to 26. The Mercure hotel at Newcastle Airport is charging $1198 for a two-night stay, and residents have advertised their houses for up to $6000 on Airbnb.

Supercars has forecast the race will attract 16,000 visitors to the city, but chief operating officer Shane Howard said tourism operators should be careful not to discourage repeat business.    

“Newcastle 500 is a tourism play and is a huge opportunity for the city and the region,” Mr Howard said in a statement to the Herald.

“It will be the biggest influx of people Newcastle has ever seen. That’s why it is important to take a sensible approach for the longer term.

“We have found at other debut events, Townsville as an example, there is a very real danger of accommodation becoming too expensive and having a negative effect over time.”

It is important to take a sensible approach for the longer term.

Shane Howard

Supercars has engaged Tent City Hire to set up at Newcastle Showground with accommodation priced from $83 to $126 per adult a night during the race weekend.

Mr Howard said visitors had alternatives to hotels and home stays in Newcastle, including “extensive day flights ... across the weekend”. 

“There are a range of options, including … campgrounds, a tent city, youth hostels, universities, motor home parks, transport from outside of Newcastle and accommodation in surrounding areas such as Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie.”

An inner-city hotel manager, who did not want to be named, said it was disappointing to hear Supercars executives criticising high prices when they had pitched the event as an economic boon for the city.  

“Part of the sell, and this is just hearsay, is that, ‘You guys don’t have to worry, you can just jack up your rates, people can rent out their homes,’” the manager said.

“Then all of a sudden it’s everybody’s rates are too high and they’re [visitors] not going to come back again. You can’t have it both ways.

“It’s going to be a good event, hopefully, and I’m sorry to hear Supercars are making those sorts of comments.”

The manager and other hotels the Herald spoke to said critics failed to take into account the “massive” disruption to Newcastle tourism businesses during the track’s construction.

“With what we’re all having to go through currently ... to be honest, you need to put your rates up.

“It’s all very good to get these articles out saying everybody’s being ripped off by high accommodation, but nobody seems to be thinking about all of the impact everyone’s going through.”