As usual, various commentators have been quick to point out the huge benefits, particularly increased visitor spending and increased exposure as a tourism destination, that hosting such an event (Ironman 70.3) will have for the country. In this article, Oisin Quinn, Lord Mayor of Dublin, is quoted as saying that “.. the event will attract a flood of participants from around the world.” Quinn is also quoted as saying that "Triathletes usually come for two or three bed nights and bring two or three supporters with them, so that will have a direct boost to the local economy," he added.”
According to the same article “The event is expected to attract up to 3,000 competitors and 20pc of entries will be reserved for foreign athletes.” As well as this, “Event organisers say the economic value of hosting this much sought-after event could be as much as €18.7m in direct spending into the local economy, as well as substantial benefit from worldwide TV coverage.” It is not clear how this figure has been arrived at. An attempt to elicit this information from the Ironman organisation has not been successful.
As with most claims by supporters of hosting such events, there is some element of truth in their claims. There will undoubtedly be participants, with family/friends/coaches in tow, from outside of Ireland, each spending money in Ireland that would not be spent here in the absence of the triathlon taking place. As ever, though, measuring such gross effects is not the correct way to measure the contribution of such an event. What really matters is the net effect, i.e. the contribution of the event net of what would have happened if the event did not take place.
Similar to a point made in a previous post by Robbie Butler in relation to the Irish Open golf (see here), the effects of the triathlon are likely to be mostly a substitution effect at national level. While the‘local’ economy of Dublin/Wicklow may benefit, this will likely be at the expense of other areas of the country.
Given the time of year, it is also possible that a ‘crowding-out’ effect may occur as triathlon visitors compete with ‘normal’ tourists for flights and hotel rooms so that the‘net’ tourism effect may be lower than expected.
With regard to the idea that TV coverage will act as a showcase that will increase tourism in the future, the implication of that idea is that there are many potential tourists who have never heard of, or have never had any intention of ever coming to Ireland, but will come here solely after watching TV coverage of the Dublin triathlon. I cannot imagine that that effect will be very large.