F1 World Championship returns to Catalonia this weekend
Despite hotels being fully booked for Grand Prix, hoteliers “frankly worried” about contract to host event next year
The European leg of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship begins this weekend at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit, with hotels in Montmeló where the track is located fully booked up. In fact, the Spanish Grand Prix held at Catalonia’s national circuit is the biggest event of the year for many local businesses, and accounts for up to 25% of annual hotel revenue, according to the hoteliers’ association for the county of Vallès Oriental, where the race track is located about half an hour’s drive north of Barcelona.
Hamilton top favorite
British driver for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, goes into Sunday’s race top of the standings, after achieving something of a chaotic victory in Azerbaijan. However, it will be no cake walk for Hamilton, with main rival Sebastian Vettel likely to push him hard, and with an unexpected return to form for veteran Kimi Raikkonen, with fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas also among the favorites. Whatever happens, the more than 170,000 spectators expected to attend the event are sure not to be disappointed.
Hotel investment plans “on hold”
Despite the upbeat mood in the run-up to the event, and the reports of a 100% occupancy rate in local hotels, the head of the Vallès Oriental’s hoteliers’ association, Enric Gisbert, says his members are “frankly worried” about the future of the event in Montmeló. Gisbert pointed out that the contract to host the Grand Prix expires next year and he urged Catalonia’s political classes “to form a new government in the next few weeks and unblock the current situation,” as local businesses that depend on the race have put their investment and strategic plans “on hold.”
"We do not have any other tourist attraction that can substitute this iconic one"
Enric Gisbert · Head of hoteliers' association in F1 circuit area
“We do not have any other tourist attraction that can substitute this iconic one,” Gisbert told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) on Thursday, also warning that should the Spanish Grand Prix move elsewhere, some 40% of workers in the local hotel sector could lose their jobs. “We are hoping for a new contract, one that is long and that can provide mental and economic stability, so we can look to the future in terms of investment to allow us to maintain the quality of our hotels,” he added.
Circuit in “no hurry” for new contract
A few days ago, the president of the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya told ACN that there was “no hurry” to negotiate a new contract to keep the Spanish Grand Prix in Montmeló. Vicenç Aguilera said that the “most logical thing” would be to begin the process of renewing the contract by talking to the Catalan government. “The government’s situation does not help but nor are we experiencing a crisis,” said Aguilera, who added that he was confident that the political situation would be resolved in the near future and that a new agreement will be achieved with the help of the new government.