The province says it'll reach out to hotels to discuss fair pricing for major events after gouging complaints
One year before Taylor Swift is set to perform in Vancouver, the B.C. government says it will be reaching out to the hotel sector to discuss fair pricing for major events following complaints of price gouging.
Of the hotels still showing availability, several are advertising surging room rates during Swift's concert dates. The superstar is bringing her Eras Tour to B.C. Place (new window) on Dec. 6, 7 and 8, 2024.
Sarah Palmer, 30, is planning to fly from Orlando, Fla., with her partner and a friend after getting tickets at face value in a pre-sale for roughly $175 each.
Vancouver was the only city we were able to get tickets to, she said in an interview.
I knew it was going to be hard — Taylor Swift is like the Super Bowl — so I knew it was going to be really difficult to get a hotel.
Palmer contacted the Quality Inn & Suites Downtown Vancouver. For two nights in a standard room, correspondence provided to CBC News shows a quote of $3,716.26 for two nights, which is around 13 times higher than average.
As those dates you have inquired about fall upon the same dates Taylor Swift is playing in Vancouver, our rates have gone up to match this demand, reads the email.
It went on to ask if Palmer would like to proceed. She said no.
I don't even know how that's legal, Palmer said.
CBC News reached out to the Quality Inn to ask how they arrived at that price. Management said rates are based on availability. When there's a big event in town, availability goes down.
That was definitely a shock that someone would even want to do that, or charge people that and take advantage of people in that way, Palmer said.
However, it's not an isolated case. Many hotels only open up rooms a year in advance. This week, several listings on Expedia, for example, showed nightly rates of up to $1,900 during Swift's three 2024 concert dates. Many others show they're already sold out altogether.
'Unfettered profiteering,' says Green Party housing critic
Opposition MLAs argue the province needs to step in to prevent this type of surge pricing from gouging consumers.
This is further evidence of a government with no interest in protecting people from unfettered profiteering, said Adam Olsen, housing critic for the B.C. Green Party, in a statement.
Instead, the NDP continues to rely on the same free-market structures that got us into this crisis to get us out of it.
B.C. does have a piece of legislation called the Hotel Keepers Act (new window) — but it's largely in place to protect accommodation providers.
I know a lot of people on the Facebook group that I'm in have thrown out their homes for other Swifties coming into town.-Sarah Palmer, Taylor Swift fan travelling to Vancouver from Orlando, Florida
CBC News asked the provincial government whether it would consider a mechanism to prevent hotel surge pricing during major events.
People deserve fair prices, replied Tourism Minister Lana Popham in an email.
The province is reaching out to hotels to discuss fair hotel pricing for major events, to ensure there is an appropriate balance between visitor experience and hotel sustainability for people visiting B.C.
Supply vs. demand
The tourism industry says Vancouver is roughly 15 years behind in terms of building new hotel supply.
If the trajectory continues, and the demand continues, hotel prices will go up — they are a function of supply and demand, said Royce Chwin, president and CEO of Destination Vancouver.
He referenced a study (new window) they released earlier this year that said to close the gap between supply and demand, 20,000 rooms are needed in Metro Vancouver by 2050, with 10,000 of those rooms needed in the City of Vancouver alone.
The study said the economic impact of not building those rooms between now and 2050 is projected to be over $30 billion in foregone output and $16 billion in foregone GDP.
We need to build hotels, but we have not put the emphasis on the policy and permitting to speed up [their] development, Chwin said in an interview.
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He added the sector has started an accommodations task force to work with the city. One city councillor says that, similar to housing, it comes down to supply and demand.
Just like rents when they go up and we don't have enough places for people to rent and somewhere to live, same with hotel rooms — it gets much more expensive, Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said.
Council passed a motion this fall to look at updating zoning regulations. Staff are expected to report back with recommendations in the new year.
The signal council sent very clearly is that we want to look at creative proposals and options, Kirby-Yung said.
So hopefully we'll get a report back from staff soon that gives us some really concrete updates to policy.
In the meantime, Swift fans might end up relying on each other for a place to stay.
I know a lot of people on the Facebook group that I'm in have thrown out their homes for other Swifties coming into town, Palmer said.
So I know that other people in the city would take care of the people travelling in.
She adds it's disheartening to pay $175 for a concert ticket, while her accommodation would likely cost more than 10 times that. And there's nothing she can do about it.
Tanya Fletcher (new window) · CBC News