IF SINGAPORE is to remain the new jewel in Formula One's crown next year, the game must be raised.
From being 'rookie' of the year (after its three recent F1 awards since last month for its innovativeness), the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix now suddenly finds itself contesting against the likes of marque names in the F1 world, like the classic Monaco GP, which has been run since 1929.
Teo Hock Seng, 62, is chairman of Singapore GP, organiser and promoter of the race.
The no-nonsense managing director of Komoco Motors - that distributes the popular Hyundai vehicles here - dispels the notion that Singapore's street race will lose its novelty value overnight.
'Even if Australia, Malaysia, China, Japan, or Abu Dhabi should ever change to a night race concept, we'll be unique.
'These are countries with dedicated tracks, and they are mostly away from the city centre.
'Also, the way Singapore's race was launched, the spirit of the city at night was unforgettable.
'That already gives Singapore an unmistakeable identity as a street race at night.
'That's different from our Asian neighbours, and different from the established Monacos and Valencias of the world.'
He also highlighted that instead of a decrease in novelty value, the first race in September would have instead created more appetite for the second race next September.
Teo said: 'We hope the overseas spectators who missed out on being here in Singapore to be a part of history, will certainly feel a tinge of jealousy.
'If they missed out on such a party, they will definitely want to come next year.
'We've got to capitalise on this.'
What about the impact of the current economic downturn?
Teo replied: 'I think the good thing is that people have a longer time to plan again for next year.
'F1 has been around for decades.
'People don't stop going to F1 races when the economy slows down.
'This is where we have to sell Singapore in perhaps slightly different ways from the first time.'
Selling the Singapore Grand Prix also means selling the country.
As Teo noted: 'We're selling a once-a-year experience.
'I think the savvy ticket buyers in the business world, and who pay top dollar for F1 tickets, know this.
'Those are the people we target.
'They will now know that there will be more people keen to experience the race in Singapore, and the race weekend combines F1, entertainment, business opportunities, all in one perfect award-winning setting.
'That's what I mean by a once-a-year experience.'
But locally, Teo said that more education is needed for Singaporean fans.
'We'll need to make it a better experience and party for returning fans here, in terms of reaching the circuit easily, improving traffic flow.'
This will include convincing non-F1 fans how they can still access the shopping areas around the race track boundaries quite easily.
'I've also heard about how there were as many as 1,000 car park lots available just two hours before the start of the race in Suntec City.
'That shows that shopping life is possible.
'Singaporeans were scared off from Day One. They didn't explore enough too.
'So all of us, from the organisers to the national agencies, will work together to send the message across better next year.'
That's how Singapore GP aims to be No.1 overseas, and locally, too, next year.
Senior Minister of State (Trade and Industry) S Iswaran, did a recent wrap-up of the first SingTel Singapore Grand Prix and made the following observations
ON IMPROVEMENTS FOR NEXT YEAR'S RACE
- OFF-SITE screenings of the race at community centres, like what happened during the last World Cup.
- Based on this year's experience, roads at Marina Bay may be shut just a day or two before next year's race weekend (as late as Wednesday or Thursday) to minimise inconvenience. (They had been closed a week before the Sept 26-28 race weekend as organisers wanted a buffer to respond to any contingency. The closures led to a sharp drop in business for many Suntec City and Marina Square tenants.)
- About the ticket prices...
Next year's SingTel Singapore Grand Prix ticket pricing
AT ANY price, there's always bound to be some form of disagreement. We will look at the other races and review our prices again for the 100,000 tickets. There must be some form of standard maintained. The experience cannot be cheapened.
Possibly around February, we may announce the ticket sales. This time, we may do it in batches instead of releasing everything.
Improving overtaking in the race
WE HAVE our own internal feedback, also from the teams, and seen the public feedback raised (like when The New Paper suggested on 2 Oct, for which corners could be improved ). We know that from Turn 21 (towards the end of the racing lap near the Singapore Flyer area), to Turn 3 (just after the start-finish straight), this stretch is purpose-built for the racing.
Compared to exisiting street roads elsewhere, it's easier to improve this stretch to encourage more overtaking and excitement for the premium-paying grandstand ticket holders.
So we will consult with (world ruling F1 body) FIA and seek feedback and approval for such suggestions.
Ken Low, assistant director (Brand and Communications), Singapore Tourism Board, answers The New Paper
ON SELLING SINGAPORE AS PART OF THE GRAND PRIX
THROUGH the Formula One race, we wanted to showcase Singapore's unique and modern destination characteristics, as well as its beauty.
We wanted the global audience to see a global city that has evolved with energy, vibrancy, and dynamism that makes it a truly compelling and welcoming destination to visit.
Through the reports and broadcasts, audiences got to experience one of the undisputed highlights of this Formula One season, with an efficiently-organised, exciting and entertaining race.
We supplemented this with events organised in overseas markets, and by bringing in international journalists to cover the event and experience the atmosphere first-hand.
Being the world's first Formula One night race, the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix was also an opportunity to showcase Singapore's beautiful night skyline, not only to event spectators but also the millions of global viewers watching the televised broadcast of the event.
ON LOCAL AND OVERSEAS POSITIONING
THE INTENTION was also to provide a total visitor experience through the Singapore GP season, complete with a host of leisure and entertainment events to show Singapore as a top-notch lifestyle and leisure destination.
At the same time, local businesses could also leverage on this landmark event to position their business offerings, be it in retail, food and beverage or other lifestyle areas, to attract the over 40,000 overseas visitors at the event.
To showcase Singapore as a choice leisure destination and provide race-goers and locals with a total visitor experience of the Formula One race, STB (Singapore Tourism Board) also presented the Singapore GP Season. Spanning three weekends before and after the race from 20 Sep to 5 Oct, the GP Season showcased various Formula One-themed activities, entertainment events and lifestyle festivals as well as shopping and dining promotions, and got fans, visitors and Singaporeans all revved up during the race period.
Based on informal interaction with visitors during the race weekend, many complimented Singapore on the exciting array of activities available here, and were pleased that the Singapore Grand Prix offered a complete entertainment experience.
On the marketing and publicity front, STB had used the Singapore Grand Prix to further market Singapore as a choice lifestyle destination at overseas tradeshows, consumer roadshows, advertisements, marketing brochures and the Singapore destination website, with various branding initiatives such as Project Postcard and the Uniquely Singapore Racer flash application.
ON SURPRISING FEEDBACK
THE OUTCOME of the race has far exceeded our expectations. While we had been confident of pulling off the event, what surprised us was the extent of the positive reviews that we have been receiving and the impact of the event on visitors' perceptions of Singapore, particularly the overall visitor experience.
Many visitors had commented that there was a party atmosphere within the circuit, and an evident buzz beyond the circuit park, especially in areas like Clarke Quay and Orchard Road, which helped to shape a positive total visitor experience. Moving forward, our immediate task would be to do a thorough review of the event and explore possible areas of improvement.
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