EDITORIAL: Setting hotel room rates for the Newcastle 500

WHEN the Newcastle 500 Supercars race was first announced, organisers were quick to point out that an influx of tourists would mean a likely bonanza for those with accommodation to rent – from top of the line hotels to householders letting a room for the weekend on Airbnb.

Now, with the race drawing ever closer, there’s a noticeable change in the Supercars messaging, with chief operating officer Shane Howard warning of “a very real danger of accommodation becoming too expensive and having a negative effect” on the event’s long term prospects.

As the Newcastle Herald is reporting, some Newcastle hotels are charging more than $1000 a night for the three nights of the race. The Mercure hotel at Newcastle Airport is wants $1198 for a two-night stay from the Friday night on race weekend, well up on the usual $300 or so.

The Supercars promoters appear to be speaking from experience, with Mr Howard citing accommodation costs during the first Townsville race as a case in point. In his comments to the Herald, Mr Howard listed a range of nominally low-priced accommodation options, including youth hostels, motor home parks and camping grounds, as well as its own commercial operation, Tent City, at Newcastle Showground.

 As an established entertainment attraction, Supercars presumably knows its target audience by now, but commonsense says that there will be relatively limited numbers of people willing to fork over $1000 a night for accommodation, no matter how close it might be to the race.

At the same time, many inner city accommodation and hospitality providers will be looking to charge higher prices come race weekend to recoup at least some of the losses they will have endured because of the extensive and protracted road closures needed to build the track.

Mr Howard expects about 16,000 visitors to Newcastle for the race, meaning that about three-quarters of the 60,000 expected each weekend race day will be Hunter or Central Coast residents, and unlikely to need accommodation.

Whatever premiums landlords put on race weekend prices, it’s their right to judge the market as they see fit. But the Supercars brand has a lot riding on the success of the Newcastle 500, and its gentle shot across the bows of accommodation providers is a sign it’s leaving nothing to chance.

Issue: 38,619.