Recently, there was been media speculation about the potential economic impact that the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) could have on Ireland, if the IRFU were successful in bidding to host the competition. It has been suggested the event could be worth up to 1 billion euros in sports tourism and would attract 350,000 international visitors. I hope this is true! What a positive impact this would have on the Irish economy.
Sadly, an examination of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, held from the 9th of September to the 23rd of October 2011 would suggest that things can't be that good. Statistics New Zealand Tatauranga Aotearoa provides an overview of the impact of the 2011 RWC on the national economy by considering five key indicators; migration, accommodation, trade, gross domestic product, and balance of payments. This entry will focus on a key question asked in the impact study: How many visitors came to watch the tournament?
According to the impact study, a person arriving in New Zealand is required to fill out an 'arrival card'. The card explains the purpose of their visit. In the months prior to the RWC a 'RWC visitor' was added to the list of reasons for arrival. This way the government had an accurate estimate of how many people arrived solely to attend matches in the competition. Between September 2011 and October 2011, 127,600 visitors arrived for the purposes of the RWC. The table to the right below lists the total international visitors for 2010, 2011 and 2012, for all visiting purposes (e.g. business, holiday, visiting family). In 2011, just over 242,500 visitors arrived during the months September and October. This means approximately 1 in every 2 visitors was their for the RWC.
The graphic below shows the size of the increase in visitors numbers due to the event being held in New Zealand. There is an unquestionable increase in visitor numbers during the months September and October, as indicated by the red bar. In September 2010, 99,421 international visitors arrived in the country. This rises to 117,844 in 2011 and falls to 94,452 in 2012. The net increase was approximately from 18,000 to 23,300 . The same is true of October 2010, 2011 and 2012, where the next increase during the RWC year was from 18,000 to 22,000.
"Event tourists may simply supplant other travelers who would normally visit the host venues. A competition that attracts one million sports visitors while displacing an equal number of regular visitors is huge event in by gross measures even though the net impact of the event is negligible. A typical survey approach to measuring economic impact will identify a large number of visitors to a mega-event, but will fail to identify those regular visitors who are displaced. A fundamental shortcoming of economic impact studies pertains, therefore, not to information on spending for those who are included in a direct expenditure survey, but rather with the lack of information on the spending behavior for those who are not".
An examination of the New Zealand figures would suggest that while 127,600 visitors arrived for the purposes of the RWC, the real increase was somewhere between 36,000 and 45,500 extra visitors. If Ireland is to attract 350,000 visitors it will have to be nearly three times more popular than New Zealand and that's before crowding out effects are considered.