Lions tour boosts Australian economy

While Eurozone crisis sees numbers slightly down, Australian tourism officials say tour has been overwhelming success.

NSW Waratahs v British & Irish Lions
The competitive series has been matched by the atmosphere and goodwill off the field [GALLO/GETTY]

An enthralling series between Australia and the British and Irish Lions is set to be decided in Saturday’s third and final test in Sydney, but local tourism and rugby authorities Down Under are already proclaiming a significant victory.

Australia’s series-tying 16-15 win in front of a record 56,000 fans at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne last week will be backed up by a sell-out crowd of 80,000 at the Olympic Stadium, capping a lucrative nine-match tour of the country.

The Lions had brought some 30,000 British tourists along in their wake, generating up to $137.64 million for the national economy, Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said.

“We’ve had three years of slight decline (in tourists) from the UK,” McEvoy said.

“But the Lions fans are great tourists – they watch a match, they party and they have fun.”

The recent appreciation of the Australian dollar, fanned by a mineral boom, means there has been no repeat of the songs celebrating the pound’s supremacy over the local currency, a standard at pubs packed with Britons during the 2001 series.

Sydney shopping

A sea of rowdy, red-shirted Britons swept into Sydney’s bars and restaurants ahead of the decider, with many flying in on Thursday and Friday expecting another tight contest between two very well-matched opponents.

Parading around in crimson flame-shaped wigs, fans were soaking up the afternoon sunshine against the backdrop of the iconic Sydney Opera House with beer and shopping bags in hand.

“Generally it’s been a bit expensive for us but we don’t care, we’re having a good time and that’s all we’re worried about,” said Lions fan Chris Turner, who travelled over 17,000 km from Bath.

“I think the cities are expensive as you’d expect. But I’m on budget, it’s what I expected to spend,” he said.

Analysts suggest otherwise.

The eurozone crisis had caused misery and potentially affected the amount of tourists coming to Australian shores, said Dave Arthur, director at Sports Business Resources, who conducted an economic impact study for the rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.

Fully booked 

“I remember standing in queues for pubs down in Melbourne (in the last tour) and they were singing songs like ‘We get three dollars to the pound’,” Arthur said.

“But when it comes to rational economic motives, when you don’t have the money, you’re not going to do it.”

The hotel industry, however, has had little cause for complaint and rooms were almost fully booked for the midweek Lions’ tour match against the Brumbies on June 18 in the normally sleepy parliamentary hub of Canberra.

Journalists covering the match spoke of spartan lodgings on the capital’s fringes, with one holing up at the local caravan park. Sydney hotels have nearly doubled their room rates for the test weekend. 
Economically, the 2013 tour had already been hailed a “phenomenal success by every measure” by Australian Rugby Union (ARU) boss Bill Pulver.

The ARU said 306,000 fans had attended the eight Australian matches so far, surpassing the total attendance for the 10-match Lions series 12 years ago.

Source: Reuters