ABU DHABI // Tourism chiefs have intervened to cap hotel room rates during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, amid fears that prices could have otherwise spiralled out of control. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which set the cap, said the price limits varied depending on the location, facilities and number of stars awarded to a hotel. It did not provide a breakdown of rates.
Even with the cap, guests staying at the heart of the circuit in the Yas Hotel, still under construction, can still expect to pay up to Dh4,060 (US$1,100) per room per night, including taxes. The 500-room hotel, with its exclusive trackside location, has been permitted the highest, most generous room rates. It is scheduled to be finished at the end of next month. More than 50,000 spectators, 2,000 race crew and 600 journalists are expected to attend the event, which runs from October 30 to November 1. The ADTA has said the city will have only 17,000 hotel rooms by then.
The cap is designed to keep prices to ensure the event is accessible by a broad range of fans, rather than simply the wealthy, officials said. The Emirates Palace hotel, which has 392 rooms, has the second-highest rate cap, with levels set at a maximum of Dh2,900 per night, including taxes. The caps apply to all standard and luxury single, double and twin rooms across the capital, although suites are exempt.
Guests at the five-star InterContinental hotel can expect to pay no more than Dh2,262 for rooms during the three-day extravaganza, while prices at Le Meridien in the Tourist Club area are a little lower, at Dh2,030 per room per night. The 236-room Crowne Plaza was quoting room rates of Dh2,030 per night including taxes, while the Capital al Diar said guests could expect to pay Dh1,218 a night. The Shangri La appeared to be unaware of the caps and quoted Dh5,336 per night for the week beginning October 28.
The figures were circulated to hotels throughout Abu Dhabi on June 23, but have only now come to light. "We are delighted that we have been given this cap," said Mohamed Wakeb, the director of sales and marketing at the Yas Hotel. "We feel it is fair that our prime location is recognised. "It was not our decision, but we are very pleased with it. We should not be on the same level as other hotels down town. The guests at those hotels have to travel for at least 35 minutes to get to the race, but for our guests, it is on their doorsteps, just outside their window."
He added that the hotel was fully booked and that there were more than 500 people on a waiting list for cancellations. Many other hotels were also full or had waiting lists. Reema Baroudi, a spokeswoman for the InterContinental, said: "They have used caps for other events in the town before. This was not a surprise. We are happy with the cap level. "The Formula One race is something that is good for the city and will be good for our hotel."
A statement announcing the decision said the ADTA "confirms it has implemented a ceiling for hotel and hotel apartment accommodation rates during the inaugural Etihad Airways F1 Grand Prix. The ceiling will become operative in the run up to, and during, the Grand Prix carnival and will be in effect from October 29, 2009 to November 2, 2009." Hotels contacted by The National said they understood the reason for the caps and would comply with them.
The decision follows comments in October by Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, the event's organiser, in which he emphasised that room rates must not become exorbitant. "I don't think we will be in a situation here in Abu Dhabi where we will allow, whether it is hotels or restaurants, to go out of control," he said. "That's not what we are about, what Abu Dhabi is about," he said. "We will be very careful to monitor that situation, to ensure things remain under control and people can afford to come here and have a good time."
The caps follow several weeks of negotiations between the ADTA and some of the city's larger hotel chains. In November the ADTA imposed caps of Dh1,650 a night for five-star hotels, Dh1,200 for four-star accommodation and Dh800 for three-star facilities during the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference. firstname.lastname@example.org * With additional reporting by John Henzell