Doha hotels set to lose out during Asian Games period

Qatar’s hoteliers subjected to fixed rates and delayed property openings

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By  Sarah Gain Published  December 8, 2006

Doha hotels face a frustrating month as the Asian Games stretch their resources to the limit and force them to turn away more lucrative business. Every room at all 14 properties in the Qatari capital has been booked out by the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee (DAGOC) from November 27 to December 17 at a pre-agreed rate, which has meant refusing business from regular guests who were likely to pay a higher premium. To add fuel to the fire, many hotel companies that were due to open properties in Doha in time for the Asian Games have failed to do so, which has potentially cost them millions dollars in revenue given that demand for hotel rooms is set to far outstrip supply during December. “A lot of people think the hotels have hiked up their prices for the Asian Games, but that’s not the case; we had government guidelines to follow, so the hotels are not really making any money at this stage,” said Minelli De Kreser, sales manager at the 362-room Doha Marriott Hotel. “The rates [we have charged for the Asian Games] would be on par with hotel rack rates and in reality, I would think that the hotel is more or less losing out. But the games is what Doha is all about, so let’s see how it all goes.” The 374-room Ritz-Carlton, Doha, which has been booked out to accommodate Asian Games VIPs, has made a big investment in advance of the event. All employees have received extra training to ensure delegates receive “the highest levels of service”, new rain showers have been installed, new bedding standards have been implemented using luxury linens, and all rooms are being updated with flat-screen televisions. The five-star property claims it will see return on investment, with the Asian Games increasing average occupancy levels by 2% of total room nights for 2006. However, it has still had to turn away business during December, even though as of November 23, DAGOC had not confirmed whether all rooms would be occupied and if so, by whom. “We don’t know how many people are arriving and we don’t know their names, only that they are VIPs;” said Marie Cazaux, the property’s director of public relations, speaking as Hotelier Middle East went to press. Worse still, The Ritz-Carlton Company’s second Doha property, Sharq Village & Spa, which was due to come online with 174 rooms and suites in time for the games, will not open its doors until at least December 24. “Nothing will open during the games because we are just not ready,” said Stephen Banks, area director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton, Doha. “We can’t have people staying there if we can’t provide the full Ritz-Carlton service.” The Ritz-Carlton Company is not the only hotel group to miss the boat — Bavaria Suites, the Millennium Hotel and industry newcommer, La Cigale Hotel (see page 8), were also due to open before the games, but will now come online in early 2007. The four properties combined would have flushed the market with more than 3000 extra rooms, which are much needed considering that Doha expects to receive an estimated 40,000 visitors during the entire games period. The Athlete’s Village has already been extended from 10,000 to 12,000 beds and three cruise ships, offering a total capacity for 2500 passengers, have already docked in Doha’s port to provide additional beds for visitors who can’t find suitable hotel accommodation.

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