Liverpool [Unsplash]

Liverpool Eurovision STR demand hits fever pitch

UK / Europe: The musical spectacle that is the Eurovision Song Context attracts hype like no other event in its industry as fans make their annual pilgrimage to a European capital to see their favourite country’s act take home the top prize. However, the anticipation for this year’s contest in Liverpool – the first to be held in the UK since the halcyon late-1990s – promises to eclipse even that and hit all the high notes in terms of short-term accommodation demand.

When Liverpool, the only city in England designated as a ‘City of Music’ by UNESCO, and birthplace of The Beatles, was announced as the host city in early October, 2,500 people in Liverpool alone volunteered for 500 roles and 100,000 additional visitors were expected to descend on the city for the competition in May.

Earlier this month, Eurovision enthusiasts almost crashed the internet as Grand Final tickets sold out inside 36 minutes. Tickets for the whole contest [including six public dress rehearsals, two live televised semi-finals and the Grand Final itself] sold out in 90 minutes following seismic levels of demand, according to organisers.

This year’s competition, taking place between 9-13 May, also takes on additional significance and poignancy as Liverpool hosts on behalf of last year’s victors Ukraine, following the Russian invasion last February. The UK Government has since confirmed that thousands of tickets are being made available for displaced Ukrainians to attend this year’s Eurovision as a mark of solidarity.

Many people who go to Eurovision Song Contests are also repeat attendees, sometimes booking their accommodations up to seven or eight months in advance to secure the right place at the best price. It was unsurprising then that by the time the dates for the contest had been confirmed for this year, demand had already skyrocketed.

Roz Golds, a press officer for Premier Inn, told MerseyNewsLive that this was a matter of increased demand and a dynamic pricing system: “In line with industry standard our pricing is dynamic. This means that it fluctuates according to demand, so the more people book a hotel, the price will climb.”

Liverpool appears to be enjoying a so-called “Olympic effect”, whereby major international sporting or entertainment events drive demand for the venue city, leading to a lasting impact on investment, the economy and tourism of the area.

A recent example of this was the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham [UK], which received five million attendees – many of whom also stayed around longer into the summer. At the time, Airbnb called on its community to host visitors for the Games and the platform is asking the same from Liverpool-based hosts this year where hotel rooms would otherwise be quickly snapped up.

One Liverpool-based business already feeling the benefits of Eurovision fever is Host So Simple, an urban-based, family-run company offering premium, short-term property management services to landlords. Employing more than 50 staff directly, Host So Simple not only offers core management services but also property sourcing, interior design, refurbishment and luggage storage.

As Liverpool’s attraction and infrastructure have grown in recent years – from the expansion of the city’s Exhibition Centre to the increase in capacity of Liverpool FC’s iconic Anfield stadium, Joe and Katy Davies, joint owners and directors of Host So Simple,  said that demand had been “through the roof” since the city was announced, first as a final option and then as the actual host city five months ago.

They said: “We are seeing the nightly rate to be much higher than other major events have been in the past, though I think this reflects the size and scale of an event like Eurovision. Our booking lead times have also been a lot longer for Eurovision dates as expected.

“I know that the city was hit really hard during the Covid pandemic with lots of accommodation operators really struggling to make ends meet, so having an event like this for the whole city to look forward to has been a really nice change for everyone involved in the industry. 2023 is looking to be a really strong year across the board compared to a typical season with the Grand National and The Open golf tournament also drawing huge crowds. It really is shaping up to be a huge year for our city,” they added.

Whenever Eurovision rolls into any city, there is always a large ensemble and supporting cast that accompanies it.

However, while the pair say that they are seeing TV production crews and journalists look to stay for two weeks-plus and younger families are keen to sample the party atmosphere, there has been no typical guest demographic book for this time so far. Larger group accommodation is proving to be a popular option as it often represents better value for those looking to stay together under one roof, as well as for guests reserving for corporate bookings or simply pining for an alternative to a typical hotel stay.

But what about the immediate and long-term benefits of hosting Eurovision?

According to Joe and Katy Davies, the event will create “thousands” of jobs for the local economy, with much of the revenue proceeds being spent in local and independent bars and restaurants, and they predicted that Eurovision would create “long lasting benefits for Liverpool for many years to come”.

They added: “Hosting such a big event like this will have a major impact on Liverpool’s economy. We rely heavily on tourism and hospitality here, so recent years have arguably affected us more than others. An event like this provides the perfect platform to reignite the city and allow us to do what we do best – throwing a great big party!”

Lodging demand soared in Liverpool even before the city was confirmed as the host of the 2023 competition. Incidentally, recently reported that 97 per cent of accommodation was unavailable on 13 May, the night of the Grand Final, while Airbnb rates reflect a noticeable pique in interest for the contest.

Madeleine Parkin, public relations specialist at short-term rental data and analytics provider, AirDNA, said: “We’re seeing over 1300 listings booked for the night of 13 May, at an average booked rate of £352 for the night. This compares to the weekend before, where just over 1100 listings are booked at an average of £230, so there’s quite the premium on the weekend of Eurovision. The rate for the equivalent Saturday last year was just £172, though of course there was no special event to consider.”

As with numerous other high-profile events, however, this pent-up demand can also come at a cost, whether it is for local residents or the guests themselves who are converging on the host city.

Talk of modifications to bookings, late or unexpected cancellations and re-listings at extortionate prices threatens to overshadow the enjoyment of the fans themselves who are driving up anticipation for the first Eurovision on British soil in 25 years. It is also fair to say though that this is not unique to Eurovision nor Liverpool itself, more so it is a case of ensuring that there is ample supply to keep up with the unprecedented wave of accommodation enquiries.

According to reports, one Dutch Eurovision super fan paid £3,200 to reserve a 16-bed place for the weekend, before the booking was cancelled the following morning and the price on the listing tripled to £9,600. The fan then received a message from the host saying that the property had been “accidentally listed” and the host asked her to cancel the booking in order to avoid paying cancellation fees, thereby maximising their chances of a big profit.

In the most extreme circumstances, a university student, his girlfriend and four friends claimed to have secured a house near to Sefton Park in south Liverpool for an overall fee of £200 per night. While they initially thought that they had got excellent value on their accommodation, the booking was later cancelled and advertised for more than £41,000 per night – a 20,000+ per cent increase that was unsurprisingly out of their budget.

In response, a spokesperson for Airbnb told The Daily Mail newspaper that, in this case, the group had never booked the accommodation and instead sent a booking enquiry – which the host was entitled to reject. The spokesperson also emphasised that the £41,000 rental price was not reflective of the marketplace and that the accommodation remained unclaimed.

Meanwhile, as Airbnb actively encourages Liverpool citizens to host visitors for the contest and benefit from “a real economic opportunity amidst a squeeze on spending, some locals have hit back at the city council’s partnership with the home-sharing platform. They argue that there should already be tighter regulations on short stays in Liverpool and that the shortage of temporary housing and accommodation for residents should be addressed first as a priority.

It is understandable that prices are being pushed up by the demand for accommodation, especially for a unique extravaganza on the scale of Eurovision. But many hosts and property managers around the city, including Host So Simple, are taking steps to ensure that their property rental prices are affordable to fans travelling from far and wide, particularly during a cost of living crisis when visitors will have had to save up for longer to make their trip.

Joe Davies said: “We, as a company, did not cancel any existing bookings in place and completely agree with the frustrated fans that, from an ethical standpoint, this is not acceptable.”

The Eurovision Song Contest has enjoyed something of a renaissance in popularity in recent years – last year’s event held in Turin, Italy, was watched by a global audience of 161 million people as per a report by the competition’s Media Intelligence Service. Locally too, the social, economic and cultural impacts on host cities are increasingly evident – 57 per cent of tourists who travelled to Turin in 2022 came solely for the shows themselves.

The Contest has also long been credited with boosting female representation on stage and LGBTQ+ acceptance across Europe through its acts and attendees.

With the slogan “United by Music” set to be emblazoned across the Liverpool Arena and the city up to and throughout May, Liverpool will continue to espouse the values of diversity and inclusion by welcoming fans from all over the continent. The city has a lot to live up to but it is clear that it is ready to party.

Joe and Katy Davies said: “We are sure everyone in the city will be welcoming music fans from all corners of the globe with open arms come May, on behalf of our friends in Ukraine.”

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