Big influx of tourists due in next four days for Rugby World Cup

By Michael Dickison

The Cloud fills up for a game. Photo / Natalie Slade
The Cloud fills up for a game. Photo / Natalie Slade

The biggest influx of visitors to the Rugby World Cup so far is forecast to arrive this week, pushing the number of international rugby fans in the country near 40,000.

The Ministry of Economic Development's tourism research arm, in its report compiled before the start of the tournament, predicts about 14,000 rugby fans will touch down in New Zealand over the next four days.

Actual visitor numbers will not be known until at least the final days of the tournament - but the surge has already shown up in a range of indicators.

There are currently more than twice as many international cellphones roaming on Vodafone's New Zealand network than at the same time last year. A Vodafone spokesman said many were visitors from the UK.

"People have definitely turned up," he said. "There's been plenty of them."

The doubling does not include the visitors who have bought local pre-paid SIM cards to put in their overseas phones.

Foreign credit card spending in the country has also been tracking about a third higher than last year - an extra $10 million a week.

A Rugby World Cup spokesman said little analysis was yet available about exactly how many visitors were here, but their influx could be easily seen.

"The proof is in the pudding and we see it in the crowds - though most Kiwis like to be Irish, it would seem," the spokesman said.

A surge of visitors this week was predicted in the preliminary forecasts released by the Tourism Strategy Group last year - when total visitor numbers were estimated at 85,000, 11 per cent lower than revised estimates of 95,000.

The forecasts had already picked that Argentinian crowds would be increasing by 63 per cent while Scottish visitors would be starting to go home.

Scotland narrowly missed out on a quarter-finals place to Argentina after losing to England at the weekend.

The quarter-finals have been split between Auckland and Wellington, with the All Blacks, Argentina, England and France playing in the former and Australia, South Africa, Ireland and Wales in the latter.

The total visitors forecast for the Auckland teams is about 16,000, including expat Kiwis - and 17,000 for Wellington.

Lingering rugby visitors from other countries push the overall figure near 40,000.

About 20,000 other rugby fans were expected to have arrived and already departed - many of them Australian visitors.

Airport, airline and immigration figures for September will be released later in the month.

- NZ Herald

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