Glasgow’s Cop26 ‘gold rush’: where will all the delegates stay?

Inflated accommodation prices mean some visitors will travel from Edinburgh

The Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow will host the Cop26 summit
The Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow will host the Cop26 summit
(Image credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

More than 25,000 people will descend on Glasgow when the Scottish city hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop26). During the 13-day summit politicians and delegates will discuss how to tackle the global climate crisis, but ahead of the event, another major issue has arisen: where will everyone stay?

Taking place from 31 October to 12 November, Cop26 will be held at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), which is located on the banks of the River Clyde. The summit has been billed as the “largest political gathering ever held in the UK”, GlasgowLive reported. And each member of the UN has been invited, meaning nearly 120 heads of state are expected to attend along with around 20,000 accredited delegates, the BBC added.

Attendees have already had to deal with a number of “obstacles” including Covid-19 travel restrictions, and testing requirements, the FT said. However, securing a bed in the host city is “proving to be the most difficult hurdle of all”.

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Accommodation crisis

High-profile delegates such as US President Joe Biden won’t have trouble finding a place to stay. But for other visitors to Glasgow, the city is facing an “accommodation crisis” with “rocketing” rental costs and hotels being booked out, the Daily Record reported.

Landlords in Glasgow are looking to take advantage of the influx of visitors with some asking for as much as £36,000 to rent a flat for the Cop26 fortnight, the FT said. “A single room at Smiths Hotel in Finnieston, a 15-minute walk from the venue, is being offered at £14,000 for the two weeks of the event, before dropping to just £903 for the subsequent two weeks.”

The “squeeze” on available accommodation has sent prices soaring in Glasgow, BBC Scotland reported. On Monday one room in the city was advertised for £42 per night, but during the summit it would cost £1,400 per night.

Fiona Hooker, of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland campaign, said the cost and availability of accommodation was “a huge concern” for activists attending the summit. “It’s incredible that they can charge so much,” she told the BBC. “What people are looking for is a place to stay with a local person and the chance to feel part of the event.”

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland

Cop26 fever spreads to Edinburgh

Glasgow’s “gold rush” has now spread to Edinburgh, 40 miles east of the Cop26 host city, The Telegraph reported. Summit attendees are trying to “shield their wallets by going further afield” to the Scottish capital, but many will be “left disappointed”.

An examination of prices by the Telegraph has revealed that on Monday the average for an Edinburgh room on Airbnb was £315, while during the summit some hosts were charging more than £3,000 per night, or £36,000 for the whole conference.

The official Cop26 website has been directing delegates to stay in Edinburgh since at least September, the FT reported. And all beds under contract by the official accommodation provider, MCI, have been filled. Tagaloa Cooper-Halo, who is coordinating several delegations from the Pacific Islands, said the closest accommodation available is in Edinburgh. “Our people are coming from the other side of the world,” she said. “It’s going to be really difficult.”

Covid fears on cruise ships

Conference staff in Glasgow will be housed on two huge cruise ships which will be docked on the River Clyde during the summit, GlasgowLive reported. Tallink’s MS Romantika, which has capacity for 2,500 people, has already berthed at King George V dock and a second ship, MS Silja Europa, will provide 3,123 more beds.

Public health experts have warned that using the ships could cause Covid outbreaks and prompt a new wave of infections.

Dr Rowland Kao, a professor of epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said cruise ships are likely places with high transmission of Covid-19 because of enclosed spaces, especially if there is poor ventilation where people come into close contact. “Given how transmissible the Delta variant is, even to vaccinated individuals there will be risks,” he said. “So lots of testing is going to be important.”

Dr Jeremy Rossman, an ­honorary senior lecturer in virology at the University of Kent, added: "We already saw for the G7 Summit in Cornwall the dramatic rise in cases following the meeting. It is very possible something similar could occur with the Cop26 meeting unless significant precautions are taken, which, given the easing of restrictions in Scotland, appears unlikely.”

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