PyeongChang Games room rip-off: Foreigners pay US$115, Koreans US$60
Individual guests are also being turned away in favour of larger groups
By Ko Dong-hwan
Gangwon Province, the host region for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, is cracking down on accommodation providers whose charges are excessive and those who discriminate against customers.
The moves come after reports of service providers targeting foreign tourists with high prices or rejecting individual guests to accept large groups.
A Canadian student in his 20s from Seoul recently visited a motel in the provincial city of Gangneung and was told the price for one night was 125,000 won (US$115). But a Korean man who made the same inquiry after the Canadian was offered a room for 65,000 won.
The Canadian said, according to DongA Ilbo, that if rates remained high, he would not stay in the city and would make day trips to the Games.
Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon is determined to root out unethical lodging providers looking to cash in on the Olympics, which start on February 9. He has proclaimed “a war with bucket rates,” referring to a Korean idiom meaning excessive rates.
“Over 4,900 suites in 17 large-size lodging facilities in cities within one-hour drive from the PyeongChang Olympics, including Sokcho and Wonju, have agreed to accept bookings without preferences starting January.”
Accommodation costs in South Korea vary with the season — slow, moderate and busy. Most tourists come in July, August, December and January, while the other months vary between slow and moderate, depending on the weather or special events. During the busy season, visitors usually expect to pay more for accommodation.
But some lodging providers in Gangwon Province have rolled out controversial “Olympic season rates” that are two to three times busy season charges.
A 39.7-square-meter suite for two people in the province was 179,000 won (US$165) a night during the busy seasons, but is now 448,000 won (US$412). A 198-square-meter room for up to 13 people now costs a whopping 1.78 million won (US$1,637) a night, almost a month’s salary for some workers.
And some pensions and motels have started rejecting individual guests or small groups so they can have larger groups.