For Singapore, F1 race gets tourism back on track

Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:18pm EDT
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By Aradhana Aravindan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore will be counting on its marquee Formula One race to help make up for a 30 percent drop in Chinese tourists this year.

The three-day event, including the night street race, clocks more than S$100 million ($80 million) in tourism receipts and opens a window on the country for a global television audience.

A steady stream of Chinese high-rollers into Singapore's two casinos helped the tourism industry grow at a compound annual rate of 10 percent over the last three years.

Tourist arrivals dropped nearly 3 percent in the first half of this year - the first such decline since the casinos opened in 2010. Singapore is on pace to record the biggest drop in Chinese tourist arrivals since it landed a spot on the F1 circuit seven years ago.

China's corruption crackdown has hurt gaming in Singapore and Macau, both popular destinations for wealthy Chinese.

"This year, Singapore is certainly banking a bit more on the F1 event to come back into the limelight after weak tourism numbers in the first half," UOB economist Francis Tan said.

While the haul from the race itself represents a tiny portion of the expected 2014 tourism receipts of as much as S$24.6 billion, it marks an opportunity for Singapore to sell itself as a country that works hard and parties as hard.

Festivities this year include performances from entertainers such as Jennifer Lopez and Robbie Williams.   Continued...

Fans take photos in the pit during a pit walk ahead of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix night race September 18, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su