Through a greater part of 2010, Delhi kept count of the accommodation available for the hordes of visitors that were supposed to descend for the Commonwealth Games in October. As hotels added more rooms in anticipation, the Games came and went amid much controversy, but the rooms remained empty. The tourism boom never came.
A year later, the contrast could not be more stark. With a fortnight to go for the Grand Prix of India, the country’s first Formula One (F1) race, between 28-30 October, hotels in the National Capital Region (NCR) are overbooked or going at significantly higher rates, in some cases even 100% higher.
Tourist attraction: F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo on Rajpath in New Delhi during a promotion of the Indian Grand Prix. By Gurinder Osan/AP
During a traditionally lean period, when there are few business travellers due to Diwali, most hotels in the luxury and business category in the Capital are looking forward to an uncharacteristically busy weekend. “Business travel would have been less but thanks to the F1, we have seen a surge in bookings. The general buzz among people is getting increasingly feverish,” says Taljinder Singh, general manager, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi, which is more than 60km from the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
To ease the long commute on one of the heaviest traffic routes in the NCR, Taj is offering daily transfers to the venue and packed meals for the trip as part of its F1 package, priced between Rs 18,500 and Rs 32,000 a night for a minimum stay of two nights.
A company spokesperson at Travelocity, a travel portal, says the spillover effect is being felt as far as Gurgaon. “There is a good demand for hotels across Delhi, including Gurgaon. These are people who are looking for a high quality stay for which they don’t mind the extra travel,” he adds.
At the otherwise pastoral Greater Noida, the Jaypee Greens Golf and Spa Resort in Jaypee Sports City, where the F1 track is located, is reserved exclusively for the teams and their support staff, while Radisson Blu Greater Noida, which is the only other five-star in the vicinity, will host the spillover guests. “Our hotel is almost sold out during the event. Most of the guests staying in the hotel are part of the F1 racing teams,” says Suraj Kumar Jha, general manager of Radisson Blu, which opened in June.
For instance, the rate at the Radisson Blu for the weekend starting 21 October is Rs 7,499 (for their most basic room) and Rs 19,499 for the deluxe suite. The rates begin at Rs 25,000 for the weekend starting 27 October.
With few other options for luxury or even business hotels in Greater Noida, hotels in neighbouring Noida and East Delhi, though, have been the biggest beneficiaries of the buzz generated by F1.
Around 40km away, at Noida’s Sector 18, the nearest commercial hub, there is no accommodation available at the Radisson property that weekend, while at Mosaic, a business hotel in the same neighbourhood, only club class rooms are still available at Rs 18,000 plus taxes a night. According to the Mosaic website, the rates for the weekend before the event are between Rs 6,500-22,000 for rooms of various categories.
Just across the inter-state boundary, the new Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar is heavily booked. Next to it, another new Hilton property, which is scheduled to be inaugurated in a few days, is also nearly sold out. “The rooms at our hotels are booked to capacity during the F1,” says T.P. Sreejith, director of operations, DoubleTree by Hilton. Incidentally, Hilton Hotels and Resorts has been associated with the F1 World Championship since 2005 as a corporate partner of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. According to the hotel’s website, rates for the F1 weekend vary from Rs 16,200-19,450 a night, plus taxes. For the weekend preceding it, the rates are Rs 6,750-8,000 a night.