Bahrain faces major F1 room shortage

Shortfall of hotel rooms is predicted in Bahrain during the first Formula One race in the Middle East in April 2004. Around 40,000 beds will be required to accommodate the anticipated influx of people associated with the race; the total number of beds in Bahrain at the moment is not more than 5000.

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By  Shilpa Mathai Published  September 14, 2003

There may be a shortfall of hotel rooms in Bahrain, the venue of the first Formula 1 racing in the Middle East.

Around 40,000 beds will be required to accommodate the anticipated influx of people associated with the race; the total number of beds in Bahrain at the moment is not more than 5000. “Out of this I would estimate only around 1800 to be quality rooms. The rest are 1,2 and 3 star properties and hotel apartments,” the general manager of a five star hotel in Bahrain told Hotelier Middle East.

According to him, the tourism authorities are considering installing huge tents to offer an authentic desert experience as well as attracting cruise liners to the Kingdom – “I don’t think this will be a solution as the water is not deep enough for the ships to anchor,” he states. “I think rooms will be sold at rack plus rates during that time; neighbouring cities like Dubai, Doha and Al Khobar will definitely profit from this shortfall”

Despite this, Bahrain’s International Circuit officials were quick to dismiss this as an issue, citing circuits in the UK and Germany as examples where other residences and possibly tents were available to accommodate any overflow.

The BIC are forecasting that 80% of visitors will come from the region and in particular neighbouring countries, which could mean that package deals from places like Dubai where spectators fly in on the day of the race, may well alleviate some of the accommodation problems.

Speaking at a press gathering in Bahrain, Hans Geist, the general manger of Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) stressed that track construction was already 3-5% ahead of schedule. He added that the asphalt layer would be placed in October.

“We have a very tight schedule to fulfil, but we will be ready for the event,” said Geist, formerly president of Austria’s formula one track, A1 ring.

Geist added that the US $150 million circuit, which is situated 30 km southwest of the capital Manama in Sakhr, should be completed by the end of the year, with a further three months required to set up the necessary Formula 1 electronics infrastructure.

With a capacity of 70,000 in the circuit, Bahrain has also been developing its hospitality infrastructure. Along with new hotels, the airport expansion and a host of new flyovers are due for completion by March.The circuit itself comprises four tracks, including the main racing track as well as a dragster circuit and an inner and outer circuit for out of season events.

Although winners of the race will have to abstain from the traditional champagne celebrations for religious purposes, the track’s Arabian themed architectural layout is likely to appease any die-hard F1 fans opposed to bringing the race to the Arab world.
Observers estimate that staging an event to this scale could cost the Kingdom as much as $150 million, although it is also likely to bring massive economic benefits to the tourism, hospitality and technology sector.

Meanwhile, Turkey may soon join Bahrain on the F1 calendar. The Turkish government recently announced that it would cover the costs of staging a grand prix in Istanbul with a view to beginning races by 2005. Bahrain is set to be unveiled as a new Formula 1 race in October when the 2004 season calendar is released.

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