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JUNE 7, 2002

Formula 1 still packing in the people

THERE is a recession but the grandstands and hotels of Montreal are all full to bursting again this year with more than 70,000 tourists expected in the city in the course of the Grand Prix weekend. It is expected that when the F1 people leave town on Monday the visitors will have left around $36m will have been left behind, having been spent on lodgings, entertainment and food. Shopping is extra. The local tourism authority estimates that the GP will bring a total of nearly $50m, which makes it one of the biggest earners for the local economy on the F1 calendar. It is also Canada's biggest tourism event.

"The Grand Prix is the single biggest weekend of the year," Johanne Gagnon of the Hotel Place d'Armes told the Ottawa Star. "We will continue to see the economic spinoffs for another eight months."

Montreal boasts 26,000 hotel rooms in the greater downtown area and all have been booked for months with the cheapest rates being around $200 a night. Room rates go up to around three times the normal figure.

The Montreal Gazette quoted Suzanne, a waitress, saying that she takes $325 a night in tips during the F1 weekend. The newspaper also reported on a lunch party for three in one Italian restaurant which cost $4500m thanks to two bottles of wine each costing $2000.

There is also believed to be an boom in prostitution and the drug trade although the police do not have any official figures.