Visitors and exhibitors heading to Fieldays are being forced into bunking in spare rooms in private homes, staying further out or making day trips due to a dire accommodation shortage in Hamilton.
The country's biggest agricultural event kicks off at Mystery Creek today, with more than 100,000 people expected to attend it over the next four days.
Police are this morning urging people to be patient on the roads as traffic into the event is building and there are reports of vehicles being back up for up to 5km.
But the large event is being hampered by lack of quality accommodation in Hamilton, which has been made worse this year with half of the commercial space being used as Managed Isolation Quarantine facilities.
Three of the city's largest hotels - The Distinction, Ibis and Jet Park - are MIQ facilities, leaving the Novotel and the smaller Ambassador, Ventura Inn and Ramada Hamilton as the only hotels in Hamilton available to visitors.
While the majority of motels - including most of the ones on Ulster St - have been commanded for emergency accommodation.
As of this morning, there were 21 listings on Airbnb for accommodation from tonight until Saturday - mainly rooms in private homes ranging from $161 to $442. A private studio will set visitors back $583 and there are several houses still available, with the cheapest option going for $526.
Meanwhile, Book a Bach has no listings available during Fieldays.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate was well aware of the dire shortage of accommodation in the city during Fieldays and had even offered a room in her house to any VIP who may be stuck.
Southgate said many other people had also opened up their homes to help, but it was not ideal.
"Some of them are commanding quite high prices for a room because supply and demand is at play here," she said.
"Big events like this just show how fine we cut it with our accommodation availability.
"Hamilton doesn't have a huge variety of accommodation like some of the centres that rely on international tourism like Rotorua and Queenstown."
Southgate said Hamilton desperately needed a new hotel and for the Government to relinquish one of the Hamilton hotels being used for MIQ to allow the city to host large-scale events. However, it was her understanding that all three hotels would be required by the Government for at least another year.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said the loss of three hotels to the open market had removed more than 50 per cent of the city's commercial accommodation inventory, forcing Fieldays to look at alternative accommodation solutions. There were also around 1200 people in the Waikato living in motels.
This included Fieldays working with Hamilton City Council to set-up a campervan village for 150 exhibitors at Claudelands Park near the event centre. It had also resulted in more people deciding to make day trips instead of staying or pushing people further out to neighbouring districts such as Morrinsville and Matamata to find beds.
Dawson said the city had a critical shortage of large-scale, quality commercial accommodation and it was being felt even harder as new businesses relocated to the city and it looked to host more events.
"Hamilton is the fourth largest city in the country, yet our hotel inventory ranks number nine in New Zealand. We have a significant gap considering our size and growth projections."
Fieldays provided a big boost to the economy in the middle of the winter season, he said. Figures from the last even in 2019 showed that each person though the gate contributed around $4200 to the economy.