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S'pore brand to ride on WTA event: STB

Agency prepares to ramp up efforts to plug prestigious tournament here and abroad

[SINGAPORE] That Singapore will be home to the prestigious Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Championships for five straight years - the longest run for a host city - is a major advantage for the Republic's branding as a top destination for events.

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Lionel Yeo said staging this world-class tournament here for such a long stretch is a "plus" as his agency prepares to ramp up its efforts to promote the event, both at home and abroad.

"We have a longer runway to build that brand recognition that the WTA Championships are in Singapore and a longer period of time to reap the returns on our investments in terms of marketing," he told The Business Times in an exclusive interview.

A key factor driving STB's philosophy when it comes to choosing which events to support is whether there is enough time to develop the association between that particular event and Singapore as the host, he added.

"(There's) no point having a one- shot deal, or many one-shot deals. It doesn't help us to build up the destination awareness and branding."

The season-ending WTA Championships will feature the top eight women's singles players and doubles pairs competing for a record prize purse of US$6.5 million.

The 10-day event will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium at the new $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub, which will open its doors this April.

Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to throng the venue to catch their favourite stars in action, with millions more tuning in "live" from around the world.

Singapore will become the ninth city to host the WTA Championships in the event's 42-year history, following in the footsteps of Boca Raton (Florida), Los Angeles, Oakland, New York City, Munich, Madrid, Doha and Istanbul.

When the Republic was unveiled as the new host last May, Mr Yeo said the tournament would net about $15 million in tourism receipts for each of the five instalments - a figure that he is sticking to today.

To attract as many visitors as possible to the October event, Mr Yeo said STB plans to reach out to countries where tennis is a popular sport, such as China, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

He is confident that tennis fans will get their money's worth when it comes to the WTA Championships because the quality of the matches are "as good, if not better" than those at the four Grand Slam events such as Wimbledon or the US Open.

"We are working hard with the event promoter (World Sport Group), as well as the WTA, to make sure that the WTA Championships in Singapore will be the best ever for them," said Mr Yeo. "That is important from our perspective because we see this event as burnishing our credentials as the events capital of Asia. It's got to be done well, and it's got to be done in a way which Singapore excels in."

While the final line-up of players coming to Singapore will not be confirmed until much closer to October, the current top eight women's singles players include Australian Open champion Li Na of China, Serena Williams of the United States and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.

At last year's tournament in Istanbul, Williams defeated Li Na in three sets to win her career-high 11th title of 2013 and fourth WTA crown.