By Crystal Chesters
Race to go ahead on 4-6 April despite four police deaths this year
Hoteliers in Bahrain have spoken out ahead of the 2014 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, commenting that they expect this year’s race to be better than ever, despite a stalemate of danger in the country, underlined again by two terrorist attacks this year, according to a report by Arabian Business' sister website Hotelier Middle East.
On March 2, three police officers died in a bomb explosion in the village of Daih, and just two weeks before, on February 14, a policeman died of wounds from a bomb blast during protests marking the third anniversary of the first uprisings.
Carlson Rezidor area vice president, Mark Willis who is looking forward to the opening of the Park Inn by Radisson next year, the company’s second Bahrain hotel, commented: “This is another unfortunate incident driven by a small minority in what is generally a peaceful and pleasant environment.
“I think the people of Bahrain move forward positively with events such as the Formula 1 and hopefully sporadic issues like this will diminish so that the country can move forward positively.”
Patrick De Groot, managing director of homegrown hotel The Domain Bahrain, agreed that the race is an excellent opportunity for Bahrain and something that must be embraced to help drive the economy and tourism forward.
De Groot commented: “I think Bahrain is extremely fortunate to have the facility in the country and the Formula 1 race being held in Bahrain is a great opportunity.
“It’s already driving a lot of business to many of the hotels so I think it’s a very positive event to take place here and it comes down to PR managing the event to make the best of the opportunity. I think the lead up to this year’s event seems to be a lot bigger and more positive so I’m hopeful that we’ll have a fantastic event this year.”
Gulf hotel general manager, Rahim Abu Omar said that the PR for this year’s event is better than ever, commenting: “For the first time in 10 years the event will take place at night – they’re promoting it like this.”
He added that the confidence in the market is higher than ever for 2014: “I believe this year there is more confidence in the market. 2012 and 2013 were not the best years for Bahrain so we’re expecting to witness growth this year.”
At the height of the troubles in 2011, when Formula 1 was cancelled, occupancy levels in the Kingdom dropped to 33 percent, a figure that has been gradually creeping up and reached 43 percent at year end 2013.
However, as a result of growth in 2013, Colliers head of hotels, MENA, Filippo Sona warns that it’s unlikely hotels in Bahrain will see double digit growth given that they have now “achieved a certain” level, and owing to the recent spate of violence.
Sona explained: “I think 2014 will see average room rate grow at a figure below five percent and occupancy at perhaps three percent and this will primarily be fuelled by the GCC community. During 2013 we had reason to believe that we could expect double digit growth, but the recent news has been a big hit to hotel companies. Hoteliers have to start re-thinking how they are going to take on this year which did start on a positive note.”
The inaugural Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix took place in 2004 and was cancelled in 2011 as a result of social and political unrest in the Kingdom, but returned in 2012 and 2013.
Troubles have been ongoing and violence has been sporadic over the last three years, spurred by an uprising by the Shia community who demanded more rights and an end to what they perceived as discrimination by the Sunni royal family.