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2015 S'pore GP looks set for strong finish

Ticket sales for public tracking ahead of last year; haze conditions expected to improve

The build-up to this year's Singapore Grand Prix (Sept 18-20) may have appeared quieter compared to previous years, but interest in the eighth edition of Formula One's only night race remains strong and steady.


THE build-up to this year's Singapore Grand Prix (Sept 18-20) may have appeared quieter compared to previous years, but interest in the eighth edition of Formula One's only night race remains strong and steady.

According to race organiser Singapore GP (SGP), sales for corporate tickets - which are a significant source of revenue - have been robust, with limited seats left. Meanwhile, ticket sales for the public are tracking ahead of last year, despite the stronger Singapore dollar vis-a-vis certain regional currencies.

"Overseas sales performance is strong with interest from far away and closer to home," said SGP's director of corporate sales, Shamini Suppiah, adding that spectators are coming from markets such as the UK, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines. Over 40 per cent of last year's spectators were from overseas.

Last month, SGP executive director Michael Roche was quoted as saying that he expects sales to the tune of over 86,000 F1 tickets this year, up slightly from some 84,450 tickets last year. The record thus far was around 100,000 spectators for the inaugural race in 2008.

However, the organiser continues to keep a close watch on the haze, which has threatened to throw a spanner in the works, especially since most of the off-track entertainment takes place outdoors. This year, international artistes that will take the stage include rock band Bon Jovi, pop band Maroon 5, Spandau Ballet and Pharrell Williams.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, SGP highlighted the "good news" that the National Environment Agency has forecast improving conditions for race weekend, with only "slightly hazy" conditions for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, title sponsor Singapore Airlines (SIA) expects both the nation and the airline to benefit from the rise in attendance this year. Citing increased global awareness of its brand, SIA extended its headline sponsorship for two more years till 2017 after coming onboard in April 2014.

According to SIA's divisional vice-president (sales and marketing), Foo Chai Woo, last year's title sponsorship reaped a strong return on investment, if measuring publicity in terms of potential advertising spend. SIA is said to have paid under S$10 million annually for its initial two-year contract. The extra lead time this year has also helped the airline to work more closely with SGP and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to promote the Singapore Grand Prix as well as their joint F1/SIA packages overseas. Aside from some of the traditional European markets that are home to staunch F1 fans, roadshows and marketing activities were also carried out in Hong Kong, Japan, India and China.

In addition, SIA has been able to raise its profile in key Asian markets, Mr Foo told BT. This comes as the group faces intense competition from full-service carriers - such as the Gulf carriers - and budget airlines, which is putting pressure on yields. It is encouraging travellers keen to explore the region to tap SIA and SilkAir's network to tack on stopovers for their F1 packages, which can include tickets, flights and KrisFlyer miles.

In the Marina Bay circuit park this weekend, SIA's next-generation First and Business Class seats will be on display at the fan village.

In the run-up to race weekend, SIA also organised activities to engage the broader community, such as the Light Up the Night Carnival which was bumped up to two days this year.

The street race is now in its eighth year, after the city-state inked a second five-year term to remain a host venue till 2017. "The Singapore Grand Prix has contributed significantly to Singapore's tourism receipts from 2008 to 2014, averaging at about S$150 million," pointed out Jean Ng, STB's director (sports). Earlier editions of the race have costed up to S$150 million to stage per race, with the government footing 60 per cent and SGP - backed by hotelier Ong Beng Seng - the rest.

Commenting on whether the city-state will remain on the starting grid beyond 2017, Ms Suppiah said that SGP will consult all relevant stakeholders in the coming months "to reach an informed and collective decision about any extension or otherwise".

Lifestyle events and activities lined up this week include the Amber Lounge party, the Road To Ultra dance music festival, Sky Grande Prix and a vintage car exhibition at the Fort Canning Arts Centre. Other firms are also leveraging on the race to market their products and services. The Four Seasons, for instance, is selling a US$100,000 ten-night, three destination package for two in Singapore, Bali and the Maldives, complete with F1 tickets and Business Class flights.

Over at Sky Grande Prix, which will take place at level 45 of Singapore Land Tower, organisers have made arrangements to move most of the party indoors, in addition to having masks on standby. "(The haze) has cleared up a lot thanks to the rain," said a relieved Gursheel Dhillon, director of marketing agency Vanilla Luxury. "It's not as bad as expected." Sky Grande Prix is expecting more than 3,000 attendees over Wednesday to Sunday.

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