x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi hotels at full throttle for Grand Prix

Hotels across Abu Dhabi are running at full revs this Formula One weekend after petrolheads from all over the world raced in to the capital.

The three-day F1 weekend is a welcome boost for the capital's tourism industry, with most hotels almost fully booked. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
The three-day F1 weekend is a welcome boost for the capital's tourism industry, with most hotels almost fully booked. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

In line with the sleek machines streaking around Yas Island, hotels across Abu Dhabi are running at full revs this Formula One weekend after petrolheads from all over the world raced in to the capital.

The three-day F1 weekend is expected to be one of the best for the tourism industry in Abu Dhabi with millions of dirhams in extra revenue up for grabs for hotels throughout the emirate.

Even with a greater number of hotel rooms in the capital this year than last year, industry executives say their properties are almost all full.

"Yas Island has been created around this event so obviously this is the moment we are waiting for the whole year," said Charlotte Rossignol, the marketing manager for Radisson Blu and Park Inn on Yas Island.

"We have sponsors of F1. We have groups and individuals. Room prices have been going up, for sure."

The Radisson Blu has 397 rooms and the Park Inn has 204 suites. Both hotels are fully booked over the three-day F1 period.

International visitors make up a much greater proportion at this year's Grand Prix as overseas ticket revenues made up about 35 per cent of total sales, up from 21 per cent last year, according to the Yas Marina Circuit.

The biggest international growth markets this year have been Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.

"There are a lot of celebrities in town and we are expecting them to come to dinner," said Indrani Bit, the marketing manager for the Park Hyatt in Abu Dhabi.

"Abu Dhabi changes its whole face during F1 and becomes a very exciting city at this time," she added.

Most of the hotels have reported a full house for the weekend, with room rates being maintained at the same level as last year, which was an average Dh1,750 (US$476), according to STR Global, a hotel benchmarking firm based in London.

"We started our F1 promotion earlier than ever this year and have been working closely with stakeholders such as Yas Marina Circuit and Etihad Airways, as well as all the local hoteliers and tour operators, to make this the most seamless and enjoyed F1 yet," said Mohammed Al Dhaheri, the quality and performance manager at Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA). "We are definitely seeing the fruits of this."

TCA hopes to attract a total of 2.3 million guests to Abu Dhabi this year, having hosted 1.74 million in the first nine months of the year, up 15 per cent on the same period last year.

"The F1 continues to be Abu Dhabi's flagship event and we are optimistic that the entire tourism industry, from hotels to tour operators, will benefit from it," said Mr Al Dhaheri.

The 12 Rotana-branded hotels in the city have been running full occupancy during the F1 period, said Adrian Deegan, the area director of sales for Abu Dhabi and Al Ain at Rotana. "Rotana manages more than 3,000 rooms in Abu Dhabi and all will be full for five days," he said.

The F1 has also provided hoteliers with the opportunity to earn extra revenues and showcase their properties.

Radisson Blu and Park Inn have been hosting the Movida nightclub from Dubai for the race weekend, while the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa has displayed the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team's racing car in the lobby of the hotel.

"If hotels are not doing well during the F1, then something is terribly wrong," said Peter Goddard, the managing director of TRI, which monitors the performance of hotels in the region. "It's arguably one of the biggest events in the calendar year."

The race week is a welcome boost for the city's hoteliers. The average room rate decreased in Abu Dhabi by more than 10 per cent to $124.28 in September, compared with the same month a year earlier and occupancy was 65.5 per cent, according to TRI.

rjones@thenational.ae