Rome hotels brace for deluge during papal conclave

'10,000 more people than a typical March' say hoteliers

Rome hotels brace for deluge during papal conclave

Rome, February 19 - Roughly 10,000 more people than normal are expected to flock to Rome's hotels during the conclave of cardinals to elect a new pope next month, according to the head of Rome's hoteliers' association. "That translates to 10% more than a typical March," said Rome Federalberghi President Giuseppe Roscioli after a meeting Friday with Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno. "There are about 100,000 hotel beds available in Rome, so we'll have no accomodation problems. In any event this is low season. Reservations are already being made, especially around the Vatican". The Vatican has yet to announce a date for the start of the conclave, making it difficult for out-of-towners to plan. It is expected to commence mid-March, possibly in time to install a pope before the start of Holy Week on March 24, Palm Sunday. Rome began making sure the city was equipped to handle a massive influx of people and traffic as soon as the Benedict XVI announced last Monday he was stepping down at the end of the month. On Wednesday the mayor said that the city was preparing a 'command center' to ensure that all offices, departments and infrastructure run smoothly in the events leading up to the election of Benedict's successor. The command center, according to Alemanno, "will guarantee the proper reception and security of the faithful who come to Rome from around the world to witness the events culminating in the election of a new pontiff". Alemanno said special attention will be paid to traffic and transportation, especially around the Vatican. An estimated 150,000 faithful flooded St Peter's Square in 2005 within minutes of the announcement of a new pope - Benedict XVI, who succeeded John Paul II.

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