By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonians seeking to preserve their hospitable reputation are inviting football fans visiting for the 2017 UEFA Super Cup match to avoid exorbitant hotel prices by staying at their homes free of charge.
Amid soaring hotel prices that threaten to tarnish the country’s self-image as a hospitable nation, residents of the capital Skopje have started offering free accommodation for visitors attending the UEFA Super Cup match between Manchester United and Real Madrid on August 8.
The Macedonian branch of the Manchester United Supporters’ Club has been leading the way. The supporters’ club said it had been overwhelmed by requests for assistance.
“I am receiving more than 100 messages a day for help with accommodation. But we will manage and we will accommodate them [the fans] free of charge,” said Vasko Kockovski, a member of MUSC Macedonia.
Other Skopje residents have also launched similar initiatives on social networks in order to accommodate as many visitors as possible.
One of them, Macedonian actress Sofija Kunovska, wrote on Facebook that she has two spare beds for foreign tourists in her home.
The Macedonian government on Tuesday also said it is still considering the idea of making Skopje’s student dormitories available to visitors for a symbolic price for the Super Cup.
Macedonia’s first UEFA club competition final will take place at Skopje’s Filip II Arena, whose capacity exceeds 33.000 seats.
The clash will pit Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo against his former club Manchester United, while Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho will also face his former Spanish side.
More than 10,000 football fans from all across the world are expected to visit the Macedonian capital for the event.
The initiatives for accommodating visitors were launched after international media started writing about skyrocketing hotel prices in Skopje over the past month for the big event.
BIRN has reported that hotel prices in Skopje have risen as much as 15-fold.
The popular online service Booking.com showed a two-night stay in one four-star hotel in Skopje for two people from August 7-9 would cost a whopping 3,000 euros. The same hotel offers an identical stay in July for only 218 euros.
There have also been reports that some hotels have even started cancelling previous bookings in hope of reselling the same rooms for much higher prices.
One such case saw 40 football fans from Slovenia complain to their embassy in Skopje after the hotel tried to cancel their reservations.
“We said this to our embassy in Skopje. We told them what was going on. I have travelled across Europe and I have not seen anything like this,” Martin Steblovnik, a football fan from Slovenia was quoted as telling TV 24 Vesti.
The hotels however changed their minds and said they would honour the fans’ reservations.
The Macedonian Association for Tourism and Hospitality, part of country’s largest Economic Chamber of Macedonia, insists that it is urging hotel owners to lower their hotel prices.
“We are facing a big test. Whether we will get the next big sporting event in the future will greatly depend on the impression we leave now,” said Goran Damcevski, vice-president of the association.
The Super Cup is the annual match between the reigning champions of the two main European club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.