Sydney 2002 co-chair Bev Lange has promised swift, and tough, cuts to the budget of the Sydney Gay Games if registration levels for the event fall short of targets.

Registrations for the October/November sporting and cultural event close on 31 July, giving organisers their best indication of just how big -“ or small -“ the Sydney Gay Games will be.

Sydney 2002 this week refused a Sydney Star Observer request to release an update of their contestant registration figures, but last week the total registration number was 10,162. Figures have been moving by only 100 to 150 new registrations per week over the last few weeks.

The overall registration goal is just over 14,000, but sources suggested 12,000 may be now a more achievable target. While this would represent 85 percent of the initial target, it would leave a sizeable hole in the Games budget, and have critical ramifications for tourist numbers and ticket sales to events and parties.

If registrations close at 12,000 this would leave the Games with an almost $700,000 hole in their budget. Other revenue streams such as income from the five scheduled dance parties would also be expected to suffer if participant and visitor numbers fall below expectation. The Games could therefore be facing a budget deficit of well over one million dollars.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Lange said it was pre-emptive to discuss final registration figures, but conceded that a budget review process was already under way. She added that all non-essential costs were being tightly monitored and that even small items such as staff use of Cabcharge and mobile phone calls were being watched.

On 31 July, or maybe 1 August, we’ll be sitting down and evaluating registrations, she said. There will have already been some areas identified between now and then that we may need to cut if revenue doesn’t look very strong. We’re more than happy to make those decisions. We won’t be delaying in doing it. They will be made early August.

Lange said that registration marketing was still taking place in Europe (through a Sydney 2002 presence at Pride festivals) and North America (via a print media campaign sponsored by the Australian Tourist Commission [ATC]).

An ATC spokesperson told the Star that the Games registration campaign had so far yielded 44,000 visitors to the campaign website. This was translating into approximately 120 calls per week to booking agents, the spokesperson said.

A Sydney 2002 spokesperson said registrations from North America were already ahead of target. The initial target for North American participation was 40 percent, but already North Americans (US and Canada) represented around 50 percent of total participants, the Sydney 2002 spokesperson said. However, correspondence from the ATC outlining the objectives of their American campaign for the Games set an objective of 8,000 athletes and thousands of additional visitors. Last week there were some 4,800 American participants registered.

Other sources did not share the sense of optimism of the ATC and the Sydney 2002 spokespeople.

Rob Wardell, president of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia, said that tourism operators were reporting weaker business numbers than expected in the pre-Games period.

There is every reason for continuing concern that the events of last year are still impacting, Wardell said. Anecdotal evidence in the travel industry suggested Americans were taking domestic holidays rather than international vacations, he added.

The North American market is critical to the Games’ success. Wardell said that no previous Gay Games had had less than 50 percent registration from the USA and Canada.

The European market may not yield too many more Games registrations either, Wardell warned. Having just returned from Europride celebrations in Cologne last weekend (at which Sydney 2002 shared a marketing stall with Mardi Gras), Wardell said Sydney 2002 may have left their run too late to get more European registrations.

Europeans are not generally last-minute bookers, he said. It’s hard to see that they’ll get a lot more out of Europe.

While Sydney 2002 organisers face a nervous watch over registration levels during the next three weeks, the number of non-competing tourists expected in Sydney during Games time is also a matter of contention, with clear disparities emerging between Sydney 2002 estimates and projections by professional tourism agencies.

Lange and other Games board members have repeatedly stated on record (including at the launch of ticket sales on 30 May) that 25,000 non-competing tourists will join the anticipated 14,000 registered competitors.

However, both the Sydney 2002 and the ATC spokespeople said yesterday that the number of non-competing tourists expected was somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000: approximately one non-competing tourist for every competing tourist. If registrations hit only 12,000, this additional tourist component will also have to be downsized. This could mean a Games visitor total of between 20,000 to 25,000 rather than the original 40,000 predicted.

Lange defended her quoting of the 25,000 figure, saying that that projection was based on information provided by the previous board of Sydney 2002.

The projections were done before we came on, she said. We’ve not sought to change those projections. Those projections were based on some figures and some research from Sydney University and Tourism NSW, based on their normal ratios. That’s what we’ve been aiming to provide services for.

Sydney 2002 is holding a community consultation meeting this Saturday at Paddington Town Hall, starting at 3pm.

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