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Austin 'pricing itself out of hotel market'

26 February 2013

Hotel operators in the city of Austin, Texas who are hoping to cash in on this year's staging of the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas might be pricing themselves out of the market in 2013, as far as F1 spectators are concerned.

Reports suggest that race week accommodation is being offered at up to ten times the normal non-GP rates, making them even more expensive than similar accommodation options in Monte Carlo for during the Monaco Grand Prix.

"They didn't understand that F1 fans are very international and they think nothing about travelling," John Sinker of English tour operator MotoExpress told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper on Monday.

"For some reason the hotels believed they could charge more than hotels in Monaco," Sinker added. "However, if presented with a choice of going to the Monaco F1 and the Austin F1 and if Monaco is cheaper, they will go to Monaco every time."

F1 journalist Kate Walker tweeted her own confirmation of the hotel pricing situation, saying that she had been quoted $1000 per night for a flat that would be just $100 per night at other times of the year.

According to the newspaper, the average daily rate for Austin hotels for the race week in 2012 was $393.69.

By comparison, the average rate for the same period in nearby San Antonio - 80 miles away from Austin - was $184.20, and the discrepancy has only increased for advance bookings in 2013 now that the US Grand Prix proved such an conspicuous success making it a far more attractive option for fans and tour operators.

"I think people were a bit unsure in 2012 so hopefully we will have better sales for 2013," Marco van Veelen of F1 Grand Prix Tours told the Austin American-Statesman. "We stay in San Antonio as it is cheaper and their [hotels] are better."

Canadian operator Formula Tours reported a $200 saving on a package consisting of a grandstand seat plus four-night accommodation at the San Antonio Hyatt compared with one located at Austin's Holiday Inn Express.

Another operator, Select Motor Racing which is based in the UK, opts for packages in San Marcos, a city which is even closer to Austin - just 30 miles away. "San Marcos is just a short hop to circuit and avoids all the Austin traffic," the company said, adding that the city was "the perfect place to play and stay."

Of course, it's not unusual for major sporting and other cultural events to see a surge in hotel prices during the period, with companies insisting that it is an inevitable matter of supply and demand in the area. But even so, Austin hoteliers may be overplaying their hand - especially given the alternatives in the area.

"We will not give the Austin hotels a second chance," warned MotoExpress' John Sinker.

"Austin hoteliers need to take note of Abu Dhabi. Nobody stays on Yas Island anymore. Too pricey. We all stay in Dubai," NBC Sports pit lane reporter Will Buxton said on Twitter in response to the story.

"You get back from the race and people say, 'How was Abu Dhabi?' To which you reply, 'Don't know. I stayed in Dubai,'" he continued. "If that's what Austin wants, it's going the right way about it. 'How was Austin?' we'll be asked.

"'Don't know. But San Antonio was awesome!'"


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