[Op-ed] Accommodation, Ready to go?
2018 Pyeongchang Olympics
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Logistical problems and accommodation issues have always been a huge concern before large multinational events like the Olympics. With time ticking down, Pyeongchang Olympics is scheduled to start from February 9, 2018, which means that a lot has to be done within five months’ period. 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics is the largest scale in the Winter Olympics history with the highest number of participants, countries, events, and medals yet the thought of something being missing is hard to dispel. After some thorough research about the accommodations of Pyeongchang province, agreements have reached that there is a lot to be done about the issue.
What is the main problem?
According to Pyeongchang province, estimated number of accommodation facilities needed during the Olympics period is over 54,500 rooms with the number of visitors being 140 thousand per day along with directly related people (IOC committee, media, national teams) being around 50 thousand. During the Chef de Mission Seminar Pyeongchang 2018, issues have been raised about the accommodation and transportation around venue cities. Although the construction of the venues has impressed the committee, the problem was that since Pyeongchang is a mountain cluster, vital team officials and coaches would have to move to coastal cluster around Gangreung province or even further. As for the transportation, although KTX trains are scheduled to run on 20 minute intervals during Olympics period from Seoul to Pyeongchang, lack of shuttle bus within the city has been one of the problems pointed out by the officials. During the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup held in Pyeongchang from March 17 to 19, the shuttle buses were available at 30 minute intervals uphill towards the stadium, but the audience had to stop at mid-point for a safety check-up and must walk the remaining distance.
Getting back to the main point of accommodation, due to the hotels being fully booked in Pyeongchang, the price of the room charge has skyrocketed to 5 to 10 times compared to regular season. It is estimated that motels and 3 star hotels would charge about $700 to $800 or even more per night for double-bed standard rooms. Some of the Airbnb studio flats around Gangreung demanded $5 thousand for 20 days of stay. Gangreung province tourism officials have stated that it is hard to control the charge rate set by individual accommodation businesses due to autonomic price policy. The cheapest fee for media teams are set at $250 per night which is higher than 2010 London Olympics ($100 per night average), 2014 Sochi Olympics ($180 per night average) and similar to 2016 Rio Olympics ($254 per night in average). In addition, the parking fee for all Olympic facilities for one-month period costs $4,715 which is about $900 more expensive compared to 2014 Sochi Olympics parking fee. Some of these fees are set for appropriation of expenses by the organization committee and they are at about $2.6 billion deficit in budget. It is hard to say that the costs would be rational for international visitors staying in Korea during the Olympics season.
What are the solutions?
A lot of experts have agreed that it would be a waste of budget to create huge hotels which will be less of use after the Olympics. It would be wiser to consider creating simple facilities that would be more efficient considering the costs needed to build large hotels.
One of the solutions could be the caravans. In 2015, Mungyeong International Military Sports Council World Games has been held in Korea with 7,045 representative squad participating from 117 countries. Although it has not been as large scale as the Olympics, they have provided 350 caravans as the provisional residence for the national team members. The overall cost needed to provide 350 caravans was only $3.1 million which could have been $70 million if the committee had decided to provide proper building facilities.
Looking at Germany’s Octoberfest, the largest beer festival held in München for 2 weeks, 14 huge tents accommodate six million visitors with only three months of preparation. This is a highly efficient festival with low costs and Pyeongchang would have to focus on it in order to be the main city. Obviously it will be hard to provide huge tents as accommodation in Pyeongchang considering the weather, but it is highly possible to create camping facilities with big tents providing a glamping experience for the visitors at the same time.
The last solution could be to provide cruise hotels around the eastern coast of Korea as they have already tried during 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 2014 Sochi Olympics. During the Vancouver Olympics, three large vessels have been used as accommodation and during the Sochi Olympics, 100 thousand tons weight of cruise has been used as a provisional residence.
As the Pyeongchang Olympics is to be the largest scale Winter Olympics, huge expectations lie ahead of it. Although the solutions suggested so far may not be the only ones, it seems quite reasonable and highly efficient considering the fact that these solutions have already been used during diverse national events. Since Olympics is the global festival for all, I hope that all accommodation problems and pricing issues are solved to provide a positive appearance of Korea towards the visitors.
Kim Seung Jun email@example.com
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