Capital's hotels in gear to do roaring Grand Prix trade

Last year, preparations went down to the wire for Yas Island hotels ahead of the Abu Dhabi event, but this year establishments across the emirate are ready for the influx of motorsport fans.

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi - January 10th, 2010 - The swimming pool at the Yas Hotel.  (Galen Clarke/The National)  *** Local Caption ***  GC02_01102010_YasHotel.jpg
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A year ago, workers were still scurrying about the seven newly built luxury hotels on Yas Island, varnishing floors, fitting lights and cleaning glasswork, just days before the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Fast forward 12 months and those same hotels, along with the rest of the capital's tourism industry, have a much easier time of it. They are poised to increase revenue during Formula One week.

"The economic returns of a sold out 2009 Grand Prix significantly benefited the tourism sector and wider economy. Now we are expecting a greater impact from this year's event," says Lawrence Franklin, the director of strategy and policy at Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).

"Through year-long marketing and advertising initiatives, as well as far more extensive, citywide entertainment and attraction offerings, we are expecting to see strong hotel occupancy rates and significant destination awareness from this year's race."

Corporate hospitality, networking, media attention and the huge exposure Abu Dhabi receives during Grand Prix week will boost the emirate's entire tourism industry.

Already the Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM) has reported more than 90 per cent of the 42,000 seats for next Sunday's final race of the Grand Prix season have been sold.

At Yas's stunning marina, luxury yachts have started to arrive, taking their positions for one of the best views of this year's F1 finale.

As for the island's hotels, every room has been booked. But then last year they opened to full occupancy, which is rare for new hotels. Usually, they have a "soft" launch for several weeks, where they gradually open their rooms and facilities, allowing them to iron out any problems that may arise.

"Of course we have used all the [experience] from last year in order to be better prepared," says Patrick Martinez, the general manager of the Rotana and Centro hotels. "Based on last year, I think the hotels did not have all the logistics to be able to deliver on a service and product level."

But it is not just the hotels on Yas Island that will reap benefits. The hospitality industry in Abu Dhabi will received a tremendous boost, with hotels in the capital reporting increased bookings for the GP.

"It's good for tourism, it's good for the economy," says Sid Sattanathan, the general manager of Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi. "It's very positive. We will be full."

Major events taking place around GP weekend, such as the Prince concert, have helped draw tourists.

"Fairmont Bab Al Bahr will enjoy full occupancy," says Arshad Hussain, the director of sales and marketing at the hotel. "This year F1 teams have been confirming their reservations eight months out and we have benefited from this base business.

"We are full from November 11 to 15 but have also reserved rooms from our inventory for our regular corporate clients. Our food and beverage outlets and meeting spaces have also benefited from F1 business, with a full roster of events.

"F1 is instrumental for the image of Abu Dhabi as a destination, especially as the championship [may] be decided in Abu Dhabi."

The new Grand Millennium hotel, next to Al Wahda Mall, is just as bullish about bookings.

"We definitely want to be part of the F1 cake," says Michael Sorgenfrey, the hotel's general manager.

The numbers

the number of 40-foot containers reported by ADMM that will be delivered to the circuit for race weekend, along with up to 40 tonnes of cars and equipment air-freighted in on five Boeing 747 cargo planes.

people expected to attend the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Yas Island

percentage of tickets already sold for the Yas Island spectacular

520 million
global viewing figures for last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

the number of teams that will compete in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

the number of rooms at the five-star Yas Hotel

The Park Inn is a three-star hotel