April 8, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo

Melbourne’s major events sector is expecting the Formula 1 Grand Prix this weekend to start to return the city to pre-COVID levels of visitation activity, providing a much needed boost to accommodation, transportation, food and beverage providers.

In late 2019 the city had been destined for record tourism results, only to be halted in its tracks by the pandemic and the public health rules instituted to keep a lid on the spread of the virus throughout Australia. In 2020 the event was cancelled just before the first practice session due to COVID concerns. In 2021 the event was due to be held in November but was cancelled in July.

More than 320,000 people attended the 2019 event, and while organisers are predicting a crowd of 130,000 this year, it represents a significant increase in business for Melbourne in comparison to what has been seen over the past two years. Five-star hotels are expected to be the major beneficiaries – throughout the pandemic they have been operating with occupancy levels below 30 per cent of available rooms, rising more recently to 80 per cent. Occupancy levels are expected to be over 90 per cent this weekend.

The return of foreign students at the rate of about 1,000 a week over the past month has also helped the hotel and restaurant industries as students are a vital part of the casual workforce as housekeepers, porters, waiters, kitchen and laundry hands.

Physical changes to the Albert Park layout, within which the F1 racetrack is located, are also expected to boost spectator interest, while corporate caterers are geared up for a busy weekend of hospitality, much of it offered to corporate clients and top achievers as part of business events recognition and reward programs.