Sunday 17 December 2017

Keith Wood: 2023 Rugby World Cup would net €1bn in sport tourism revenue for Ireland

Former Ireland international David Wallace, 2013 ireland wone's Grand Slam winning captain and Neil Pakey, CEO of Shannon Airport
Former Ireland international David Wallace, 2013 ireland wone's Grand Slam winning captain and Neil Pakey, CEO of Shannon Airport Newsdesk Newsdesk

Securing the Rugby World Cup for Ireland would see sport tourism revenue from 2023 break the €1bn barrier – almost 20 times the current annual return from the sector, the upcoming Shannon Airport European Sport Tourism Summit will hear.

The event, which will be held in Thomond Park on May 14th and 15th next and has Independent News & Media as its media partner, will hear from international experts how Ireland can exploit its huge potential in what is the fastest growing sector in global tourism and win bids for major global events like the Rugby World Cup.

Delegates will travel from as far afield as Korea and the US, with the majority drawn from across Ireland and will include representatives of local authorities, sports bodies, federations, clubs, charity organisations and communities here and abroad, will also hear about how cities, regions and even nations can grow their own major events and generate significant tourism revenue in the process.

Speaking at the launch of the event, Keith Wood of W2 Consulting, which is organising the summit, said that while the Rugby World Cup is the sport tourism event on all Irish lips, there is huge opportunity for Ireland to grow its current estimated annual revenue of €50m from the sector by multiples.

“There is a lot of excitement here at home and internationally, and rightly so, about Ireland’s bid for the event.  I believe it is a case of when rather than if we host a Rugby World Cup.  There is something of a consensus internationally that an Irish hosted event could well prove to be the most popular rugby world cup ever staged, not least because of our international reputation for hospitality.

“Every effort is being made to secure the event for Ireland and so it should as the return would be more than worth the investment.  I believe that a Rugby World Cup in Ireland is one of few that would could actually break even as Ireland is such a popular tourism destination anyway, western Europe is the biggest global market for rugby and we have excellent access to facilitate that.

“It would attract up to 350,000 visitors and also generate anything up to €800m in revenue for the country and thousands of jobs.  Couple that with the €200m we anticipate sport tourism will be generating annually and you hit the €1bn mark in terms of revenue from sport tourism in one year. That’s the same amount that Northern Ireland is seeking to grow its entire tourism industry to by 2020.”

According to W2 Consulting co-founder Mark O’Connell, The legacy would continue to be felt for many years to come, he added.  “The event would have an accumulative TV audience of over four billion people. The marketing potential from that alone would be worth the investment and generate a huge number of first time and repeat visitors subsequently to Ireland.

“We should not forget either that Ireland is also bidding for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017, which is an excellent opportunity in its own right.  It may not bring in huge numbers but it will be another excellent showcase for Ireland.”

Neil Pakey, CEO of Shannon Airport, which is sponsoring this year’s event, said that Ireland has the ability to grow the sector exponentially. “Ireland is tailor made for sport tourism," he said. "It has great year round capability with fantastic natural outdoor infrastructure for all types of sport and adventure and then there is the unique sense of Irish hospitality that tourists the world over come here for as well.

“Here on the western seaboard, the Wild Atlantic Way is, in particular, a playground for sport tourism. It is already a major international destination for surfers, walkers, anglers, and the links courses here are incredible. We’ve even developed our own product here at the airport with our midnight Runway Run.”

Registration for the event is now open, with delegates hearing from leading international experts, including Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation David Grevemburg, who is deemed one of the world’s leading authorities in sport tourism; Paul Smith, Head of City Delivery for England Rugby World Cup 2015; Mike Laflin of SportCal, a global leader in sport market intelligence and Richard Hills, Managing Director of Ryder Cup Europe.

This year’s event will also include the inaugural Shannon Group plc sponsored European Sport Tourism Awards, details on which will be announced shortly, as well as Industry Expert Sessions and the European Sport Tourism Academic Conference, both on Day Two.

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