Hungary Banks on Late Rush to Boost Crowd

Struggling against a general decline in tourism, Hungary hopes at best to match last year's attendance of 160,000 fans at this weekend's Formula One Grand Prix, organisers said today.

Hungary Banks on Late Rush to Boost Crowd

Struggling against a general decline in tourism, Hungary hopes at best to match last year's attendance of 160,000 fans at this weekend's Formula One Grand Prix, organisers said today.

"A month ago, we were 35 percent behind last year's ticket sales but we've since made up much of that," Peter Gerstl, head of ticketing agent Ostermann Formula One, told Reuters. "We still hope we can match last year's figure."

The race is the biggest single tourist event in this central European state which is heavily dependent on tourism revenues. The number of foreign guests in tourist accommodation fell seven percent year-on-year in the first six months of this year.

Two years ago, there were no hotel rooms available in a 100-km radius of the Hungaroring a month before the race.

This year, four and five-star hotels in and around Budapest still have rooms, though occupancy rates have climbed to nearer 90 percent ahead of race weekend. Gerstl said the decline in tourism since the September 2001 attacks on the United States was partly to blame for slower ticket sales.

"A few years ago, if (Michael) Schumacher won pole position, we could count on getting another 20,000 German fans coming up for the race," Gerstl said.

With four races left, Ferrari's Schumacher leads the title race with 71 points, six ahead of Williams's Juan Pablo Montoya.

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