Some businesses see lower gains from race

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg takes a corner during the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore on Sept 17, 2016.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg takes a corner during the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore on Sept 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

While some businesses will miss the Singapore Grand Prix if it is axed, others here said it would not make much of a difference.

The night Formula One race did help swell takings over the years, but it has been losing its lustre, retailers and restaurants told The Straits Times. This year, the event, which Singapore has hosted since 2008, saw its poorest ticket sales in nine years.

The race attracted 219,000 spectators to the Marina Bay Street Circuit over the three-day race weekend, a 15 per cent fall in average attendance. The fall has been blamed by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran on a slowing global economy.

For eatery Pita Pan in Marina Bay Sands (MBS), business typically goes up by a fifth during the F1 weekend, but this year was disappointing, said manager Jona Garray, 30. The restaurant doubled its staff to as many as 12, including hiring part-timers, and even set up a drinks bar for tourists.

"In the end, it turned out to be unnecessary," said Ms Garray. And if this goes on, an end to F1 will not matter much, she added.

It was a similar story at Sen of Japan, a casual eatery also in MBS. It, too, had enjoyed a 20 per cent increase during the F1 weekends until this year, when any extra business was negligible, said restaurant supervisor Ellie Superable, 42.

While losing the race will not make much of a revenue dent, she still described it as a bonus for staff. "We can hear the live music from here. We can feel their presence, their energy, the vibe," she said, referring to the F1 concerts, featuring stars like Bon Jovi and Robbie Williams, that have been held every year at the race event.

But one restaurant in Raffles City, Salt Tapas & Bar, said the F1 weekend is the year's highlight, with a 50 per cent increase in business - even better than over the Christmas period. Restaurant manager Jose Clemente, 35, said: "F1 is a significant event for us."

Still, restaurants like Salt Tapas seem to be the exception.

Most hotels along the race route in the Marina Bay area declined comment. The ones which did, such as Royal Plaza on Scotts, which is farther from the area, said F1 business has slowed down over the years. The hotel's general manager, Mr Patrick Fiat, said: "After five years, the event started to lose its lustre for the crowd, which is keen to seek out new experiences when watching the races."

Other businesses said they will welcome a stop to the loud noise of F1 race cars zipping past and road closures, as these deter other customers from visiting their stores.

The F1 race here has given Singapore a more glamorous sheen and helped bring in more visitors, mainly from Europe, Australia and New Zealand, said director of marketing communications at Dynasty Travel Alicia Seah.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said: "F1 is the biggest advertisement we have. It puts us on the map. It won't be easy to find another international event that can attract these kinds of crowds."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Some businesses see lower gains from race'. Print Edition | Subscribe