x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bahrain tourism counts the cost of F1 cancellation

Bahrain's tourism industry to lose out as Grand Prix is postponed - with video.

The cancelled Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix represents a big miss for the country's tourism sector. AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File
The cancelled Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix represents a big miss for the country's tourism sector. AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File

Bahrain's tourism industry is counting the cost of losing the Formula One Grand Prix next month, which has been postponed indefinitely because of unrest in the country. The event is worth about $600 million in total revenues to the Gulf state.

Hotels across Bahrain fill up for the race, first held in 2004 and which is the single most important annual event for the hospitality sector.

"Now we have to start looking at what we are going to do about it," said Michel Mandrea, the general manager of the Golden Tulip hotel in Bahrain. "We are looking at five days where we would have 100 per cent occupancy for all the hotels."

As the first race of the Formula One season, the event was expected to be widely watched, generating huge international exposure for Bahrain.

The Grand Prix held in Bahrain 2008 attracted almost 100,000 spectators, according to an independent study. It generated $116.8m of income from visitor expenditure on accommodation, food and beverage outlets, retail markets and travel services, the study showed.

In addition, the race brought in $13.8m in ticket sales and a further $36.7m expenditure by racegoers on merchandise and food and beverage at the Bahrain International Circuit. Hotels also push up prices for their rooms for the race.

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"This is the best week that we have in Bahrain in terms of occupancy and rates," said Mr Mandrea, explaining that this year his hotel was charging about 140 dinar for the race period, about double its normal rates.

The race creates some 600 jobs directly and indirectly. A survey of visiting race fans from overseas found that 49 per cent travelled with Gulf Air, while 6 per cent flew with British Airways.

The study also found that the "vast majority" of the income from the Grand Prix comes from the travelling fans. Twenty-two per cent of the fans come form overseas, with most travelling form the UK, followed by people from the Middle East region.

The Grand Prix generates US$7.7 million through television rights, commissions, facility rentals, sponsorship referrals and catering commissions.