x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Yas bids to lure more foreign fans to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

F1 organisers go abroad to sell tickets to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Tens of thousands of race fans watch the Formula One drivers take to the track at the start of last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Tens of thousands of race fans watch the Formula One drivers take to the track at the start of last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.

ABU DHABI // Ticket sales are on track for next month's fourth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, according to Yas Marina Circuit officials.

Richard Cregan, chief executive of the track, said about 20 per cent of the 50,000 ticket sales last year came from race fans outside the UAE. This year, the goal is 35 per cent.

"We concentrated on the GCC and did a lot in Australia, Europe, and in particular the UK," he said.

Australian race fans are expected to visit specifically for the Australian V8 Supercars competition.

"The Australians are good people to travel and [they] like to get out and have a good time - not only for the Grand Prix, but to take a week off. That has worked very well."

Yas Marina Circuit, Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA) and Flash Entertainment have worked together to promote Abu Dhabi as a destination in seven countries - Britain, France, China, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The TCA made a big push in Australia, hosting a morning television personality for a week in April and organising a special race featuring Australian drivers, called V8-Face Off in the Desert.

"Our collective strategy to boost international sales for this year's Grand Prix is based on casting our net further and earlier than ever before," said Faisal Al Sheikh, events manager at the TCA. "By taking the event to proven source markets we are strategically upping the ante in territories with well-established track records in generating strong inbound traffic to Abu Dhabi."

Three "destination packages" are on offer - luxury and lifestyle, entertainment seekers and motorsport fans.

UAE residents are notorious for buying their tickets at the last minute, and Mr Cregan expects sales to surge in the run-up to the November 2 event.

"We live in a last-minute market," he said.

eharnan@thenational.ae