Ticket prices have been slashed at the Alltech World Equestrian Games (WEG) as organisers face up to attendance and cashflow crises with 65 days to go.
Last week, WEG issued a defensive statement “busting the myths” about “extortionate” spectator costs. But within days, chief executive James Link admitted that only 270,000 of 600,000 tickets had been sold.
WEG (25 September-10 October) is now offering a 30% discount on tickets bought by 6 September for endurance and early rounds of other events. Partial refunds will not be offered on tickets already sold.
“While early projections were optimistic, we recognise that with the downturn in the global economy, a complete sell-out may not be realistic,” said Mr Link.
“We are doing everything possible to react appropriately to market conditions and feedback we receive from around the world.”
But Mr Link said the original prices had been “positively reviewed by global sources”.
Internet forums are also awash with grumbles about hotel rates — hoteliers have increased prices by as much as three times the norm.
And WEG recently introduced a daily $5 charge for the previously free hotel shuttles, rocketing to $15 if bought after 15 September.
It seems few British spectators will be travelling to the Kentucky Horse Park compared with previous US-hosted global events.
GB media and businesses not attending
Unusually no UK national newspapers plan to send reporters to WEG and the BBC will voiceover its commentary from London. H&H will send two journalists and a photographer.
Businesses are also staying away. Currently only 140 of the 300 tradestands have been taken. Stands cost a minimum of $15,000 (£9,700) for a 3x3m booth.
Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), said: “Usually we’d take 15 to 20 companies, but due mainly to the expense of exhibiting and accommodation I had to reject the idea and have diverted the funding [from UK Trade and Investment] to other events.”
Hoping to capitalise on minimal evening entertainment at WEG is an alternative trade show, the International Equestrian Festival (IEF) with a bolt-on casino at Lexington Convention Centre.
Over 100 exhibitors are listed. Mr Link denied the IEF had stolen WEG business, and added: “We welcome any activity that appropriately enhances the overall spectator experience.”
Although the FEI ostensibly owns WEG, it is not liable for any loss. Kentucky is organised by the World Games 2010 Foundation, a tax-exempt, non-profit organisation set up for the purpose, with revenues from sponsorship, ticket sales and other undisclosed sources.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (22 July, ’10)