City hotels full for the grand prix

If you want a hotel room in Melbourne this weekend, you may be out of luck. Hotel operators say they are booked solid for the Australian Grand Prix, with visitor numbers indicating the race is motoring along as strong as ever.

According to Accor - the largest hotel group in Australia with brands such Sofitel, Novotel, MGallery and Ibis - occupancy rates at its 20 Melbourne properties are at record levels.

Despite a trend to late bookings, the hotels are up 15.3 per cent on last year's race, which attracted 313,700 spectators.

"All our hotels are expecting to be full for the event period," Accor's Victorian regional manager, Adrian Williams, said.

"The surprise this year is that demand has extended longer than in previous years with Sunday showing RevPAR growth [a measure of hotel occupancy and room rate] of 24.7 per cent.

"This highlights that visitors are using the grand prix as a catalyst for experiencing more of the city than just the racetrack, and this will filter down to restaurants, taxis and other businesses."

Crown's general manager of public relations, Ann Peacock, said: "Similar to previous years, Crown's three Melbourne hotels are all booked to capacity. There is also high demand for restaurant and spa bookings and the complex anticipates more than 100,000 visitors over the weekend."

The acting chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Trent Zimmerman, said the grand prix gave people a reason to travel, with many extending their stay.

"Strong leisure-visitor numbers are expected for events like these," Mr Zimmerman said. "However, Melbourne is also experiencing a lift in business travel with many using the event for corporate hospitality.

A State government report shows that the grand prix in 2011 increased Victoria's gross state product by as much as $39 million.