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Empty grandstands at F1 Korean Grand Prix put race future in doubt

Empty grandstands at F1 Korean Grand Prix put race future in doubt
October 8, 2013

Having struggled to draw the crowds in its four races, the future of the Korean F1 Grand Prix is in doubt.

While the race circuit at Yeongam, located 400 kilometres south of Seoul and near the port city of Mokpo, is popular with drivers it has struggled to attract fans. As a result, the race may be in jeopardy on a packed 2014 F1 calendar.

With some stands noticeably empty, and others sparsely filled, during the race on Sunday (6th October), Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton observed "you just have to try and draw inspiration from the empty seats."

UK newspaper The Guardian quoted McLaren driver Jenson Button lamenting the lack of support for the venue, stating "it's always sad when there are no fans at a race because they make for the atmosphere."

Now in its fourth year, the race has struggled to attract crowds since it was first staged in 2010. In 2010, 168,000 spectators attended the race over three days, with 80,000 showing up on race day at the 135,000 capacity circuit. However, reports in the Korean press at the time said some tickets were given away for free to students in order to make the stands look full.

In 2011, ticket prices for the event were slashed at the last minute in an attempt to boost attendance figures with the cost of the average ticket reduced from 460,000 won (US$410) to 315,000 won (US$280), with the cheapest ticket on sale for just 87,000 won (US$77). And in order to boost interest early on, tickets bought in March are being offered with a 50% discount.

However, location and price are not enought to explain the relatively poor numbers that attend.

While many races on the F1 calendar attract large numbers of international fans, there seems to have been little effort made in marketing the Korean F1 Grand Prix to an international audience.

Tourism literature and the Korea National Tourism Organisation's websites include very limited information on the Grand Prix or any other major sporting events that Korea is set to host in the coming years, suggesting that those responsible for Korean tourism promotion have yet to recognise major sporting events as a drawcard for international visitors

In spite of Korea looking to develop its international tourism markets, it seems to be ignoring promoting its calendar of major sporting events to an international audience, preferring to focus on its cultural attractions, the MICE market and medical tourism.

Korea's hosting of major sporting events is explored in a feature in the September/October 2013 issue of Australasian Leisure Management.



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