Government should get in pole position for post-2010 Grand Prix
The Hong Kong Tourism Board touts the SAR as the 'events capital of Asia', but there is little indication that the government understands the economic value of major sports events.
We have virtually no international-standard sports venues. We lost the 2006 Asian Games to Doha. The Salem Open tennis tournament will go to Beijing. Last month it was reported that Shanghai was to sign an agreement to host a Formula One Grand Prix from 2004 to 2010. We could have been hosting a Formula One race if our government was faster on its feet.
Would hosting such a race be beneficial? In an exhaustive analysis of the 2000 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Victoria, the findings surprised even the hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and other goods and service suppliers. The Grand Prix:
Added A$130 million (about HK$573 million) to the state's gross domestic product (GDP);
Created the equivalent of 3,100 full-time jobs; and
Sent A$9.8 million in direct taxes to the state.
It is predicted that over the 10-year life of the current contract Victoria's GDP will have benefited by well over A$1.2 billion, while also receiving global publicity which attracts tourists.
The Formula One World Championship is televised live to 135 countries, with a global TV audience of more than 300 million for each of the championship rounds. Melbourne hosts 1,400 journalists, mostly from overseas.
Since 9/11 the world tourism market has suffered enormously, nevertheless, 27,000 tickets for the 2002 race were sold outside Australia and all 36,000 hotel rooms within 24km of the city were sold out and 400,000 people attended over the four days of the 2001 event. Of these, 87,000 were upmarket corporate admissions. Even the Sydney Olympics could not match that figure. Some 40,000 were from overseas, each spending an average A$1,500. In addition, Melbourne gets around A$100m in free advertising a year in global media coverage.
It is not too late. Shanghai's contract will end in 2010. In the meantime we should build the finest motor racing facility in the world, aiming to become the centre of Asian motor racing. Year-round racing, corporate hospitality days, track days for the public and a well-run circuit would be money spinners. Motor racing is very hi-tech. Facilities for teams to be based here would provide jobs for hundreds of highly-paid electronic and engineering technicians and other staff.
We need a succession of high-profile events throughout the year to bring in high-spending tourists. Motor racing is one of the most watched events on TV. I hope the government will respond to my suggestions, through these columns.
ROBERT L. WILSON