Ahmedabad: Gautam Kumar, a design consultant from Mumbai, has not been able to find a hotel room in Ahmedabad this week. ”I am willing to pay a premium but still have no luck,” he says in frustration. Kumar, on a business trip to the city, thought he would simply walk into any hotel as he always does but was not so lucky this time. The hotels in Ahmedabad are running at 100% occupancy levels this month.
The situation is a fallout of the ongoing state legislative assembly elections, the wedding season, business meets, religious meets and the Delhi fog that forces flights to divert to Ahmedabad regularly.
”We’ve never had it so good. Ahmedabad does not have the capacity to handle such a huge influx. With so many events in the city at the same time, there is too much pressure on hotels to accommodate guests,” says Joseph D’Couto, general manager, Le Meridien, which has a 63-room five-star hotel in the city.
Rajesh Sinha, chief operating officer, Neesa Leisure Ltd, feels the situation is unlikely to improve before February. Neesa Leisure has two properties — the 53-room Cambay Sapphire in Ahmedabad and the 115-room Cambay Resort in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat.
”We opened the Ahmedabad property in October and since 15 November, we have no rooms to spare. When we are full in Ahmedabad, we try to accommodate our guests at Gandhinagar but there have been cases when we have had to say no to them,” he says.
Nainesh Patel, a non-resident Indian (NRI) from London, is in Ahmedabad to celebrate 100 years of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sampraday (BAPS). The function being held on 13-18 December. He managed to find a room but his friends aren’t as lucky. ”Some of my friends were willing to pay as much as £200 (approx Rs17,000) a night but did not get reservation,” says Patel. The tariff in star hotels in the city ranges from Rs4,000 to Rs14,000.
Patel and his friends are followers of Lord Swaminarayana, who was born in north India but settled in Gujarat two centuries ago. The BAPS event organizers have put some of them up in residential houses. ”We expect over 500,000 people, including 10,000-12,000 non-resident Gujaratis and foreigners. We had booked a number of rooms but did not get as many as we would have wanted, thanks to the wedding season and elections,” says Nimesh Barot, a member of organizing committee.
Large media contingents, seeking to cover the elections, and the presence of too many political leaders have put extra pressure on the hotel infrastructure. Prakash Javdekar, national spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is one of the many political leaders who have been staying at a city hotel for weeks now. They are unlikely to vacate the place before the election results are out.
Sunil Pandya, an NRI from Seattle, Arizona, is in the city to campaign for a political party. His friends had to drop their plans to join him as no hotel room was available. ”We were willing to pay more than we would have paid in the US for a similar facility but there is no room,” Pandya said.
Ahmedabad has 32 three- to five-star hotels with 2,100 rooms and around 120 budget hotels with more than 2,000 rooms. The tariff in star hotels ranges from Rs4,000 to 14,000 a night. Some hotels are now charging a premium. “The tariff for a deluxe room in our hotel was Rs5,000 plus taxes before November but we have raised it to Rs6,500 now. Other hotels have even doubled tariffs to encash the boom,” says Narendra Somani, president, Hotel Owners Association, Ahmedabad. Somani owns a 40-room hotel Grand Bhagwati in the city.
Hoteliers feel if any flights are diverted from New Delhi or other cities to Ahmedabad next fortnight, they won’t be able to accommodate any passengers. ”At times we accommodate passengers if the waiting period is long. But this time around the airlines would have to look for other destinations if they are planning to divert flights,” says D’Couto of Le Meridien.
Ahmedabad will continue to face shortage at least for another year till about half a dozen properties that are under construction come up.