By IRENE CHAPPLE
U2 fans travelling to Auckland are being charged extra accommodation costs - raising the hackles of some who say they are already spending thousands to see the Irish rock legends.
Christchurch man Don Burns was shocked to find prices at Auckland Central Backpackers would increase almost 20 per cent while the Irish supergroup was in town.
Burns and seven others are travelling from Christchurch, Wellington and Masterton for the St Patrick's day concert, U2's first in New Zealand since 1993.
The 38,000 tickets for each concert sold out in 90 minutes and group organiser Sally Johnston said the four couples were spending about $1500 each on their rock'n'roll holiday.
Plans went sour after they tried to re-organise their accommodation and found prices had been raised for the weekend. Johnston said she booked four double rooms at the backpackers for $67 each and when she called back to change two of them for $88 ensuites she found prices had gone up to $80 and $105.
The backpackers' front office manager Andrew Hoey said prices had been put up for the Big Day Out and U2 because demand was high and "we had a tough year (last year) so basically we see this as an opportunity to get it back".
The decision to raise prices - which had been done only once before, for the Lions tour - was a "hard dilemma".
"We talk about it a lot, but we have to make money," he said.
Hoey said he would charge the group $67 a double room because it was the original quote given.
A quick accommodation survey by the Sunday Star-Times found other hotels and backpackers put prices up for events such as the Lions tour. The Duxton had not increased prices for U2, but discount specials such as the "superdocket" $199 deal were unavailable.
The Carlton Hotel's director of sales, Brendon Bainbridge, said room prices set before the Lions tour were up from $225 to $250, but when the expected truckloads of fans failed to come, prices dropped to around $200 a room.
The hotel had not increased prices for the U2 weekend but would be unlikely to offer discounts on its published $225 rate.
Bainbridge said customers should expect to pay more for accommodation at premium times, comparing it to flying at Christmas or eating out on public holidays.
"If you and 80,000 of your friends are converging on the same place the price might be higher ... but I haven't seen hotels doing anything crazy".