Football: Ukraine's Euro 2012 Hotel Crisis Eases, A Little

KIEV, Ukraine -- Slammed by UEFA chief Michel Platini for allowing Euro 2012 hotel prices to sky-rocket, embattled co-host Ukraine has tried to make good on a pledge to try to ease the burden on fans' pockets.

Donetsk, Ukraine

"We've seen that there is now more on offer, so prices have gone down," UEFA spokesman Thomas Giordano told AFP.

"It's clear that there is still overpriced accommodation out there but nobody's going to book it," he added.

Just four weeks ago, during an assessment visit by European football's governing body, Platini lashed out at "crooks" in Ukraine's tourist sector for trying to make easy money.

In some cases, hoteliers took advantage of the mismatch between supply in the ex-Soviet republic and demand from fans to increase prices as much as eighty-fold.

Chastened, Ukrainian authorities vowed to take action within 30 days, with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov even threatening to introduce state control of hotel tariffs.

Swollen prices have stoked fears that a slice of the 700,000 fans Ukraine is hoping to draw will stay away -- tarnishing the first-ever edition of the tournament behind the former Iron Curtain.

That was underlined by the unprecedented failure to sell out matches to England's normally ardent fans for their group games in the eastern city of Donetsk.

According to Markian Lubkivsky, head of Ukraine's organising committee, a total of 25,000 tickets remain unsold for matches there, against 50,000 three weeks ago.

Games in co-host Poland in contrast have sold out.

Prices remain far from perfect compared with previous, west European editions of the 16-nation tournament, where fans could also get better quality for their cash.

For example, two berths in a vast tent in Donetsk are selling online for 126 euros ($161) for the June 27 semi-final, and a double room with shared bathroom in a youth hostel for a staggering 962 euros ($1,228) on the same date.

But cheaper solutions have come onto the market, with youth hostel dormitory beds at around 20 euros ($26), and a four-person apartment at 192 euros ($245).

Official tournament travel agent TUI meanwhile lists options on its site including double rooms in a university hall of residence for 72 euros ($92) a night for a minimum three-night booking.

Organisers say they have mustered an extra 23,000 hotel rooms in Ukraine's four host cities, plus 15,000 camping berths.

"The situation is now adequate," Lubkivsky told AFP.

Ukraine's prices still remain higher than those in Poland, however.

According to figures from UEFA, the average price for a night in a Ukrainian three-star hotel during the tournament is 191 euros ($244), compared with 155 euros ($198) in Poland and, in a four-star, 263 euros ($336) against 205 euros ($262).

Some in the travel sector remain pessimistic.

"Things have got a little better in Donetsk, but there are no decent three-star rooms left for less than 300 euros ($383)," said a French travel agent used to dealing with fans heading to tournaments, on condition of anonymity.

France will play their group matches in Donetsk and the capital Kiev.

In the western host city of Lviv, where teams including Germany will play, there is nothing available for less than 430 euros ($549), apart from youth hostels, he said.

Tournament organisers in Poland say many German fans plan to stay on the Polish side of the border and travel to Lviv on match days.

Ukraine's fourth host city is Kharkiv, in the northeast.

Euro 2012 kicks off in the Polish capital Warsaw on June 8 and ends with the final in Kiev on July 1.

Source: AFP