Jackpot as Rugby World Cup cash floods in

By Michael Dickison, Elizabeth Binning

Rugby World Cup ticket sales target tumbles and tourists open their wallets. Photo / Dean Purcell
Rugby World Cup ticket sales target tumbles and tourists open their wallets. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Rugby World Cup has hit the jackpot - Sunday night's All Black and France final has more than doubled the previous sales record for a New Zealand event, and tourists are finally starting to splurge.

Cup organisers yesterday said they had passed their $268.5 million target, set more than two years ago.

Rugby New Zealand 2011 chairman Brian Roche said 87 per cent of all tickets had sold, taking the total sales to $268.7 million.

"This is a tremendous achievement and one that all those who have contributed to the success of this tournament across New Zealand should be proud of," Mr Roche said.

The revenue eclipses by more than 11 times the previous largest-grossing event in New Zealand history, the 2005 Lions rugby tour.

Sunday's sold-out final alone has made more than $50 million, twice as much as the Lions tour.

Many retailers had been disappointed with business at the start of the Cup tournament and had pinned their hopes on sales improving during the final two weeks.

That now appears to be happening. Central Auckland was bustling yesterday and hospitality and food businesses and other retailers reported a long-awaited boost.

Dine by Peter Gordon restaurant manager Jenny Kiihfuss said a lot of extra customers had eaten there this week.

"It just seems like there's more of a vibe in town. Everyone is in good spirits."

Grove Restaurant co-owner Annette Dearth said dinners were almost fully booked this week.

"It's definitely improved. Last week was pretty good and this week is just flat out, not for lunch but for dinner. We have been full every night, and then some.

"I think the people who are here want to spend money now. You have more of the high-rollers."

Michael Hill's Queen St branch manager Carrie James said business was good and the store's tax-free sales - especially of diamonds - were up.

Kiwi Town Souvenirs owner Benny Li said business at his Queen St store was up about 20 per cent.

"It's not as good as we expected, but it's definitely better than normal."

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said it was no surprise that revenue was up in central Auckland as international tourist numbers had doubled since the semifinals.

"We have got less rugby, so people have more time to settle in and explore."

New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle said the country had delivered on the promise made in Dublin in November 2005 when the union won the right to host the seventh Rugby World Cup.

"We promised the [International Rugby Board] a unique rugby experience where teams and their supporters would be warmly embraced by a stadium of four million," he said. "Without a doubt we have seen just this over the last six weeks."

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said achieving the sales target was a fitting cap for a "truly exceptional" World Cup.

"Achieving the ticket revenue target is another glowing endorsement of a tournament that will be remembered as one of the great Rugby World Cups.

"Not just for the action on the pitch and the wonderful way that the whole country has embraced the event, but because of the superb structure, organisation and delivery."

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said the achievement was a tribute to the hard work put into the tournament.

TICKET SALES

* Target: $268.5 million

* Now: $268.7 million (1.39 million tickets)

- NZ Herald

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