Glasgow landlords raise prices for UN climate summit

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Glasgow landlords are asking as much as £36,000 to rent a flat for the fortnight of the UN COP26 climate summit as they seek to take advantage of the influx of more than 25,000 people pouring into the city over the next month.

COP26 attendees have already had to deal with obstacles including Covid-19 travel restrictions, and testing requirements — but securing a bed in the Scottish host city is proving to be the most difficult hurdle of all.

A single room at Smiths Hotel in Finnieston, a 15-minute walk from the conference venue, is being offered at £14,000 for the two weeks of the event that starts on October 31, before dropping to just £903 for the subsequent two weeks.

On Airbnb, one landlord — perhaps optimistically — is offering a three-bedroom luxury apartment for £34,045 from October 29 to November 12.

Another flat, comprising just 735 square feet, is being offered to rent for £36,400 for the fortnight.

Because of the uncertainties of Covid-19 travel rules, many delegations did not finalise their plans until September or October, particularly countries that were previously on the UK’s travel “red list”.

With beds in Glasgow no longer available, or at least not at a price that most delegations can afford, many negotiators, activists and officials are now staying in Edinburgh, 45 miles away.

“Our people are coming from the other side of the world . . . and now the closest accommodation available is in Edinburgh,” said Tagaloa Cooper-Halo, who is co-ordinating several delegations from the Pacific Islands. “It’s going to be really difficult.”

The official COP26 website has been directing delegates to stay in Edinburgh since at least September, noting that all beds under contract by the official accommodation provider, MCI, have been filled.

The shortage is partly because of the big entourages accompanying some government delegations — more than 1,000 people will accompany US President Joe Biden and members of his cabinet, said people familiar with the planning.

Smiths Hotel in Glasgow where a single room is being offered at £14,000 for the two weeks of the COP26 event that starts on October 31 © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/FT

The city’s total hotel room supply is about 15,000 rooms, according to the Glasgow Convention Bureau.

Some delegates have found their bookings cancelled by landlords eager to increase prices. Trade publication Carbon Pulse has cut its delegation after being repeatedly cancelled, according to director Mike Szabo. “We booked through hotels.com, through Airbnb, through Vrbo, and every one has been cancelled by the owners,” he said.

While some two-bedroom Glasgow flats listed on Airbnb on Friday were advertised at less than £3,000 for October 31 to November 31, most cost more than £4,000 and a few were much more expensive.

Because such negotiations often run through the night, staying close to the centre is a priority for negotiators.

Video: The make-or-break issues facing the COP26 climate summit

Those seeking a cheaper way to stay in Glasgow during the global climate event are having to pursue more creative solutions.

One landlord is renting out his “much loved camper van”, called Alexis, which can sleep two adults on his “M1 crash-tested rock’n’roll bed” — for £1,912.

For those not worried about a lack of personal space, the Booking.com website has been offering a single bunk bed in a 14-person dormitory in central Glasgow for £181 a night.

Meanwhile, two cruise ships with a combined capacity of more than 6,000 beds have been booked to provide accommodation for attendees: the Romantika and the MS Silja Europa.

Cruise ship Romantika
Cruise ship Romantika will provide some accommodation for attendees © John Peter/Alamy

Airbnb has also been offering £100 vouchers to try to lure new hosts to list spare rooms on the platform, in an attempt to increase supply.

Many delegates say they are worried the poorest countries will struggle to be represented properly at COP26 because of the shortage of affordable accommodation.

Kat Jones, COP26 project manager at Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said a COP26 homestay network had received thousands of applications from delegates.

“We didn’t anticipate having demand from people right across society . . . we are talking about scientists, people who have jobs at COP like translators, delegations, etc,” she said. A thousand have been placed in homes so far, with a further 2,500 on the waiting list as of Friday.

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