SEVERAL of Bahrain's hotels are already fully booked for the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix to be held on April 13-15. Some hoteliers say they were fully booked as early as May last year, mostly by international corporate clients and all hotels have increased their rates by a slight margin.
However, others believe the response they got this year has not been as good as it had been in previous years, while some say it was still early and that more bookings would be confirmed closer to the actual event.
Crowne Plaza sales and marketing director Zee Bassila said that the month of April was one of the hotel’s busiest schedules. Preparations for F1, coupled with the normal conferences, regular tourist visits and other events contributed to April being the month when the hotel earned the highest revenue, he said.
“All 246 rooms including the Royal Suites are fully occupied and all have been paid for in advance,” he said. He said that most of the bookings had been done just after Ramadan last year and that enquiries and room requests had doubled compared to last year.
Bassila said some clients were Bahrain-based while others were international clients, mostly from Europe.
He said rates for rooms and suites were also higher during the F1 period, and would start at BD175 and reach up to BD800 compared to the range from BD60 to BD240 that prevailed rest of the year.
Gulf Hotel public relations manager Sidney Fortun said that the hotel’s 360 rooms were fully booked and that reservations couldn't be made during the F1 period. “Just before 2007, several deals between the hotel and the companies had already been ironed out,” she said.
“Bookings reached full occupancy between August and October last year and most bookings and negotiations were done well ahead of time,” she said. All 97 apartments at the hotel's Gulf Executive Residence were also fully booked for the F1, she said.
The Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa public relations assistant manager Ipek Denizoglu said the hotel's 245 rooms as well as its 23 villas were fully booked. She said that the rates for rooms, suites and villas vary between BD130 to BD1,800 during the normal period and would rise during F1, one of the hotel's busiest times.
The InterContinental Regency Bahrain, too, is almost totally booked out. Sales and marketing director Masami Egami said customers repeated their bookings a day after last year's event and the hotel anticipates a similar response this time as well. A mix of clients including teams, F1 fans and other tourists had made the early bookings, he said.
Egami believes that since Bahrain was the third host nation for this year's F1 season, more Asian fans would have opted to go to Malaysia instead of Bahrain.
The Mِvenpick Hotel Bahrain’s sales and marketing assistant director Maya Naji said the response this year wasn't as strong as last year but last minute bookings are expected to come up soon. The room rates during the F1 had risen from BD80 to about BD220, she confirmed.
Furnished apartment buildings around Bahrain also had rooms available for the F1 and the owners were expecting more bookings to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Elite Group International group general manager Sarosh Aibara said that the group's three hotels were fully booked and the group's apartment buildings were at 80 per cent occupancy. The Elite Suites, the Elite Seef Residence and the Elite Grande offer 215, 178 and 130 rooms, respectively.
The group also operates eight furnished apartment buildings around Bahrain in the Mahooz, Juffair and Manama areas, with an average of 50 apartments each.
“This is the fourth F1 season in which we've been in the market and so we have a lot of repeat clients,” said Aibara. “The Elite Suites and the Elite Seef Residence were fully booked by the middle of last December, but the Elite Grande was only fully booked by the start of February,” he said.
The price for room rates varied from BD100 to BD200++ during the F1 period, and ranged between BD36 to BD110++ in normal time.
“A large part of the orders came from bulk agents,” he said.
Meanwhile, in response to concern that high accommodation prices are deterring Formula One fans from travelling to Bahrain, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) launched a BD400 ($1,061) package for Formula One fans from abroad.
Deals were negotiated with 11 apartment buildings around Manama and visitors from other Gulf countries are being offered special four-day travel packages that include accommodation, race tickets and transport.
“We have the biggest annual sporting and social event in the region and we repeatedly hear that people are deterred from coming here because of unacceptably high hotel costs this is something which requires a solution,” BIC public relations manager Samer Al Shaikh told the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.
“Hoteliers are now a lot busier over the course of a whole year and it has always been, and will always remain, our position to push them to set a realistic rate for their rooms at all times.”
The packages were to be available until March 23.
Al Shaikh said research among Formula One fans across the Gulf had indicated the cost of hotel rooms during the Grand Prix was a major area of concern. He said the aim was for travellers to stay in Bahrain for several days, rather than come for a flying visit.
F1 racing has pumped BD249 million into Bahrain's economy so far, Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa told MPs recently. He said that despite reported losses of BD16m by the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in 2004, according to the Financial Audit Bureau report, the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix had proved a massive boost to the economy.
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