Switzerland and Austria are preparing to host the Gotha of European football. Throughout the month of June, Euro 2008 will attract fans to the stadiums in droves and fill hotels in the eight host cities. The only downfall: while the coming month is the busiest for hoteliers in both countries, won’t this tournament cause businessmen to shy away?
All European football fans have a date in Austria and Switzerland as summer approaches. From June 7 to 29, 2008, Basel, Berne, Geneva and Zurich for Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna for Austria will set their pace to the beat of Euro 2008. Hoteliers in both countries have logically positioned themselves front row in order to make the most of this event. Of course, the European Football Championship does not have the same resonance as a World Cup, but it will nonetheless generate a significant increase in business. Portugal, which hosted the last edition in 2004, saw its occupancy grow by 9 points and average daily rates increase by more than 50%. At a time when the morale of Portugal’s hotel industry was not at its best – far from it– the best of European football gave a welcome boost to its RevPAR, up by more than 70%.When there is a major event, the Revenue Manager’s role is strategic for successfully attaining the best profit. Just a few days before the kickoff, the challenge set for hotels’ teams is clear: fill the key days, abandoned by businessmen but not filled by supporters. “There are still a few low volume days but that will come. For now, we are trying to block reservations for a minimum of 2 to 3 nights. We will begin selling single nights at the last minute to satisfy last minute reservations,” explains the accounts manager of Bâlehotels. “We’re not in a panic, we’re calm. We will certainly not see overbooking at 150% but there is no reason to lower prices,” remarks Hans Peter Leise. As for the athletes, the anxiety continues to rise as the tournament approaches. But when it comes to hosting a great event, underachievement is rare in the hotel industry.Can Swiss and Austrian hoteliers expect the same results? Which one will win the gold medal for the strongest growth in RevPAR? In the little game of comparisons, it must be observed that Switzerland got lucky in the lottery. Zurich and Berne are preparing to welcome lucrative colonies of French, Dutch and Italian supporters. Austria would appear to have been dealt a poorer hand, Vienna in particular. The first returns prove to be less promising, with matches setting the national team against Croatia and Poland. A sure value: the reception of neighboring Germany. But all good things come to those who wait. Vienna, like Basel, will certainly catch up later: these two cities are the only ones that will be under the spotlight for the rest of the tournament.“In the end, it is a very positive event for Austria,” rejoices Hans Michael Leise, general manager at Accor Austria, “there is one problem, nonetheless: the tournament is not held in December or January”. This seasoned hotelier summarizes the overall feelings. In both countries, June is traditionally the strongest month of activity for the hotel industry. Most of the host cities are business cities and economic activity is generally in full swing during that month. Like in Zurich and Geneva, Basel posts a very high occupancy rate that is often greater than 85%. Across the border, Vienna posts no vacancy thanks to its high volume of conventions, the Austrian cities of Innsbruck, Klagenfurt and Salzburg differ slightly from this trend.The result of this condensation: businessmen, repulsed by the perspective of mixing with a public that is in a jubila-tory state as well as by high room rates prefer to postpone their travel or cancel it altogether. “2008 should be a bad year for conventions,” foresees a pessimistic Hans Peter Leise. “Demand is low for seminars and banquets,” admits Philippe Eberlé, accounts manager at Bâlehotels, owner of the properties Victoria and Baslertor and Mercure Europe in the Swiss metropolis.Another cause for concern: the contingent of unsold rooms by Kuoni, the incoming travel agency mandated by the UEFA to accommodate teams, referees, the media, partners and their collaborators. Within the framework of negotiations with hoteliers, the initial goal was for a total of 140,000 nights distributed among 22,000 rooms and 400 hotels. These perspectives have recently been revised down. “The demand has been lower than hoped for,” observed Hans Peter Leise. “Reality is not so euphoric as a few months ago.”When they were given the organization of the Euro 2008, didn’t the two countries score a goal against their tourism? Far from it. “While it might not be a jackpot, Euro 2008 will have very favorable repercussions on accommodations and on F&B revenues alike,” maintains Philippe Eberlé. “Prices in Basel are already high but average daily rates should grow by 10 to 15%”. In Austria, despite the annoyances caused by such tournaments, the opportunities for raising rates for the month of June are real. Prices posted by Accor Austria on match days are the same as those generally adopted for major conventions. “We have a very good Revenue Manager and we prepared for the event well in advance so we may sell our rooms intelligently,” explains the regional director of the French group.When there is a major event, the Revenue Manager’s role is strategic for successfully attaining the best profit. Just a few days before the kickoff, the challenge set for hotels’ teams is clear: fill the key days, abandoned by businessmen but not filled by supporters. “There are still a few low volume days but that will come. For now, we are trying to block reservations for a minimum of 2 to 3 nights. We will begin selling single nights at the last minute to satisfy last minute reservations,” explains the accounts manager of Bâlehotels. “We’re not in a panic, we’re calm. We will certainly not see overbooking at 150% but there is no reason to lower prices,” remarks Hans Peter Leise. As for the athletes, the anxiety continues to rise as the tournament approaches. But when it comes to hosting a great event, underachievement is rare in the hotel industry.
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