F1 weekend: $100m tourism boost expected, more events in run-up

SOME hotels and convention facilities here are reporting an increase in events being held in conjunction with next weekend's Formula One race.

Raffles City Convention Centre is expecting a 10 per cent increase in guests attending events over the weekend compared with the F1 weekend last year.

At the InterContinental Singapore, a discussion paper launch, training seminars and weddings will be held that weekend. Only weddings were held last year.

California-based think-tank Milken Institute is holding its first Asia Summit on Sept 18-19. A spokesman said it planned the event around the F1 weekend "to be part of the excitement for Singapore and the region's rising global economic and social impact".

Other events being held around the same time include the Singapore Summit and the RMB Internationalisation Summit, while the week will see a regular fixture, the Russia-Singapore Business Forum.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said the F1 event is set to pull in about $100 million in extra tourism receipts this year.

This is less than the estimated $150 million in extra tourism receipts that each race weekend attracted in the first five years of the event, though the STB said that its projection has usually been around $100 million.

In any case, experts say the F1, in its seventh year, could still be worthwhile given the intangible benefits of branding Singapore as a top destination for tourism, business and as a place to live.

Factors such as the global television audience are key, said United Overseas Bank senior economist Alvin Liew.

On the benefits of hosting the F1 event, the STB said that from 2008 to last year, the race had a global audience of more than 500 million, with more than 250,000 international visitors.

Average extra tourism receipts have been about $150 million, excluding 2009, a recession year.

If the eventual tourism spin-offs this year come in closer to $100 million, this could be the result of a weaker global economic outlook.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have downgraded global growth forecasts this year, said CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun.

"We have been seeing some dips in tourism arrivals this year as well. Hopefully, when the global economy shows stronger growth, it might give everything else a lift."

The net benefits far outweigh the cost of holding the race, said Mr Jeffrey Chua, managing director at BCG Singapore, which was hired in 2010 to analyse F1's costs and benefits.

He said yesterday: "There are clear, significant... benefits from the exposure... (potential) increases in tourism, investment, jobs. Induced impact from increased tourism alone is more than $1 billion over 10 years."

Retailers hope to benefit again from the F1 race. Orchard Road "generally experiences a spike in visitors during the race season", said Mr Steven Goh, executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association.

Smaller firms involved in the race also get a boost. Kingsmen Creatives builds grandstand seats, part of a five-year contract it won last year. "We're thrilled to be part of something that has grown to become a global iconic event," said executive chairman Benedict Soh.

wrennie@sph.com.sg