LONDON (Reuters) - While Germany’s Formula One Grand Prix hangs in the balance, hit by dwindling crowds and rising losses, Britain’s Silverstone circuit believes it can make money and attract more fans by charging less.
The ‘Lewis Hamilton effect’ has helped boost British Grand Prix ticket sales, with home fans eager to see their champion in action, but organizers say the decision to cut prices is as significant.
A promotion offering 1,000 Sunday general admission tickets for 99 pounds ($150) each was sold out in 22 minutes.
So great was the demand that the offer was kept open for a day and 6,000 tickets sold -- many then upgraded to grandstand seats that were also reduced in price.
The circuit’s newly appointed managing director Patrick Allen told Reuters that making the race more accessible was the focus now.
“We were asking families to pay over 1,000 pounds to come for a weekend. I don’t think that’s accessible,” he said.
“I was horrified when I came in that a family from Britain could get on a plane, go to Spa, watch the race and fly back again for less than they can come to our home grand prix.”
Allen said Silverstone had also revamped the policy for children, with under-11s now coming in free with an adult compared to under two in the past.
“We had 18,000 calls into the call center for tickets...63 percent said ‘We weren’t going to come but now I can bring my family I’d love to come’,” he reported.
“The criticism I had was that we’d lost margin...but we can afford it because of the new people. They buy food, they drink, they spend money on camping and merchandise. We were inundated with people thanking us for making it more accessible.”
For next year, Allen said, Silverstone was thinking of emulating budget airlines with an escalated pricing model.
“It’s a bit like if you are buying an advance rail ticket to go to London or a Ryanair ticket. The earlier you buy it, that’s a great deal. If you buy on the day, it’s expensive,” he said.
“We’ll make money,” he said of the new approach. “For me, not to have a British Grand Prix is unthinkable. There are ways to make it work and you don’t make it work by keeping putting the prices up.”
Editing by Ed Osmond