Golf is big Scottish draw as sports tourism brings £2.3bn into the UK
MORE than a million foreign tourists travelled to Britain to enjoy a sporting event last year, with American visitors attracted to the pull of Scotland’s prestigious golf venues such as St Andrews, according to a new report.
VisitBritain found that 1.3 million tourists planned their trip in 2011 around sport, spending a total of £1.1bn, according to the national tourism body.
It found that the biggest draw was football, but said that future events such the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles will help Britain stay “centre stage” when it comes to sport.
The organisation found that sports tourism is worth £2.3bn to the British economy, as visitors who actually take part in sporting events during their holiday – such as playing a round of golf – accounts for a further £1.2bn of spending.
Football, in particular the top-flight game in England, attracted the greatest footfall, with 900,000 tourists spending £706m during the 12 months – an average of around £785 per fan.
Getting to a game was the main reason for making the trip to Britain, according to 40 per cent of foreign fans, the VisitBritain figures show.
Some may have travelled to the 2011 Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium but their favourite venues to watch a match remained unchanged from 2010.
Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, was the top choice, followed by Anfield, where Liverpool plays, then Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.
On the back of research in the Office for National Statistics international passenger survey, tourist bosses have now identified football as a “highly effective tool” in enticing visitors to Britain at some of the quieter times of the year, VisitBritain said.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said: “The Premier League is now the most watched and supported football league in the world and there’s a huge amount of effort being made to connect with our international fans.
“Little though beats the thrill of a Premier League matchday and it’s very encouraging to hear that football can play an important role in increasing the numbers of international visitors to this country.”
Some 174,000 of the foreign tourists who watched a football match in the UK in 2011 were from Ireland, followed by 80,000 from Norway, 61,000 from the United States, 54,000 from Spain and 48,000 from Germany.
VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said: “The Premier League is known as the most international and exciting league in the world, supported by fans across the globe who want to find out more about their favourite players, come and see them play and explore their local areas. “Our partnership with the Premier League not only highlights the value of sports tourism to the UK economy, but it also helps drive inbound visits by inspiring travel to the UK at traditionally quieter times of the year.”
Sport in general is a big boon for the tourist sector as some of the nation’s top venues – from St Andrews and Lord’s to Wimbledon and Ascot – stretch across all of Britain.
Golf was most likely to draw in spectators from the US, while rugby was popular with the Irish and French.
Cricket attracted most of its overseas spectators from Australia but in “a somewhat peculiar result” the next largest group were residents of France, VisitBritain said.
Horseracing proved popular with visitors from Asia Pacific and the Middle East but also had global appeal.
Travel and tourism bosses believe that Britain’s tourist sector is now in a period of “unrivalled opportunities” triggered by hosting a range of top-flight sports events and this year’s successful Olympic Games in London.
Pointing to future events in Scotland in particular, the VisitBritain Foresight study stated: “This is just the start of an extraordinary period for Britain hosting the world’s elite sportsmen and sportswomen, and of course those keen to come and support their efforts.
“The Rugby League World Cup in 2013, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in 2014, the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2015, the World Athletics Championship in 2017 and the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 are all set to ensure that while the Olympic movement will be turning its attention to Brazil for the next summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, Britain will remain centre stage when it comes to sport.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West