INVERNESS hotels have been blasted as greedy and "grasping" after it emerged some rooms are going for as much as £463 a night on leading travel websites.
That eye-watering price, for a two person executive room at the Drumossie Hotel today, is more expensive than a stay at the plush Langham Hotel in London’s prestigious Regent Street. Even a classic double room at the Drumossie worked out more expensive on the same date at £399.60.
Other Inverness hotels are also coining it in as demand for rooms outstrips supply this busy summer season.
One double room at the Jurys Inn in Millburn Road today was available on Thursday at lastminute.com for £348 – and that did not include breakfast.
One night for two adults in a standard room at the Beaufort Hotel in Culduthel Road was £265 for a night, while an executive room at the Columba Hotel in Ness Walk would have set you back £350 if you had stayed there via lastminute.com on Thursday.
The city’s hotel association admitted the issue of high prices had been raised at its recent meeting following customer complaints, but insisted owners had to make a living and said visitors were not forced to stay – pointing out that Edinburgh and Glasgow were more expensive.
Emmanuel Moine, chairman of Inverness Hotel Association, said: "There are complaints about prices being quite high, but that’s because we have a lot of demand. We talked about this at the last meeting but we are just following the trend in the market.
"It can be expensive but in the winter it is going to be very cheap. I appreciate guests’ comments though and if they think it’s too expensive then fair enough.
"We don’t want people not to come, so it is a difficult balance.
One fed-up businessman has slated the sky-high prices as "outrageous" and has vowed to boycott the city.
John Shields (45), a salesman from Glasgow, hit out after being priced out of a recent visit to the Highland capital.
He said: "I have travelled to Inverness many times in other sales jobs for well over 20 years.
"But in the last two or three years I’ve noticed the hotels plus the bed and breakfast places are really taking advantage.
"I asked one hotelier how he could justify the rise and he just replied, ‘It’s all about supply and demand, so the higher the demand, the higher the price.’
"I just thought that was terrible.
"I know it’s been busy lately, with festivals such as Belladrum, but it really is grasping and taking advantage of the situation."
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland regional partnerships director, has urged "common sense" within the industry.
"While VisitScotland cannot directly influence the amount that hotels charge, we’d urge businesses to adopt a common sense approach to pricing and appreciate that value for money plays a hugely important part in the overall experience when visitors choose to come here," he said.
"The Highlands has continuing appeal for visitors coming for both business and leisure, but cost and level of service should be directly linked."
Graeme Ambrose, chief executive with Tourism Bid Visit Inverness Loch Ness, sympathised with visitors and hoteliers and said plans for new hotels in the city would ease things.
He added: "It is a contentious issue. There is a shortage of accommodation and it is inevitable that it comes down to supply and demand.
"I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the massive growth in tourism here for the past year", citing the huge success of the North Coast 500 and the effect of popular TV shows such as Outlander in attracting tourists.
"As for hotel prices, we cannot deny there’s been a negative reaction to finding rooms and also the cost. That has come up in tourist surveys of Inverness."
But tourists in the city yesterday seemed unconcerned about the prices – giving the city the thumbs-up for accommodation in guest houses and student halls.
Veronica Marchese (38) from near Milan in Italy, said: "We paid 60 Euros each for a night at the student accommodation at UCI and it was very nice. It was a good price."
Her boyfriend Marco Liberty (39) added: "The rooms were fine and yes, the price is OK."
And Monique Fontana (76) and her son Emmanuel (40) from La Rochelle, in France, were pleased with their rooms at the MacDonald House guest house.
She said: "We paid £130 a night [for a room] and that is normal for us and what we’d expect to pay. I have an en suite, plus they stayed up late to make us a meal. We are here for five nights and it is a lovely place."