Washington, Jan 11 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The upcoming second inauguration of US President Barack Obama, scheduled for Jan 21, has created a frenzied grab-fest of luxury hotel rooms and exclusive tickets that is driving prices far beyond their face value.
“Everyone wants the tickets but they all want to haggle, and at this point I can haggle for more than I was asking to start with,” said one man who posted an ad on the Craigslist classified website offering two seats to the swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol for $4,000.
He asked not to be identified because he did not want to get the friend who gave him the tickets in trouble.
He said his friend works for a Republican member of the Congress, and got the tickets for free but was not keen on watching a Democratic president take the oath of office, so he handed them over and the two men agreed to split the profits.
Congressional staffers who get passes to the swearing-in event at no cost are not technically allowed to sell these.
Something else that is selling like hot cakes — hotel rooms.
There are 27,000 hotel rooms in Washington, and the city is braced to sell out over the inauguration weekend.
“Second inaugurations tend to be smaller, but the Washington Transit Authority expects 600,000 to 800,000 people to ride into the city on inauguration day, which would make this the second largest inauguration in history,” said Kate Gibbs, media relations manager for Destination DC, the city’s official convention and tourism corporation.
Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 was the largest event ever recorded on the national mall, with an estimated 1.8 million people in attendance, she said.
“The second was Lyndon Johnson in 1965 with 1.2 million and then Bill Clinton with 800,000 for his first inauguration,” she said.
Luxury hotels have come up with extravagant, over-the-top luxury packages.
This year, one of the most expensive on record is a $201,300 “West Wing” experience being offered by the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown hotel.
“That includes two private floors, and you get special food presentations every night, special etched glasses, you get this one-of-a-kind necklace, so it’s really very nice,” said Colleen Evans, director of public relations for Ritz-Carlton.
“What is really the most exclusive part is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol and some of the other iconic sites in Washington, which you really can’t buy,” she added.
The Ritz-Carlton has also hired a “scent butler” for its Washington facility, available to spray hotel guests with the preferred scents of past presidents and first ladies.
The Madison Hotel has come up with a first — a social media butler.
“This is someone that will tweet for you, post photos and comments to your Facebook account, Pinterest, whatever you may like, so you can have fun and still let your friends and family follow all the action without having to worry about taking pictures,” said Madison Hotel spokeswoman Meredith Goldberg.
The package, which is being offered for $47,000, includes four nights, a private inauguration tour, and lots of special perks, she said.
The 2009 inauguration generated revenue of $94 million for the Washington region.
Some Washington residents are also renting out rooms and apartments, cashing in and heading out of town.
Virginia resident Robert Nathan has posted ads for hotel rooms he has already booked, ranging from $280 to $400 per night.