Rugby World Cup visitor numbers put at 133,000

By Michael Dickison

Some visitors probably moved their trip to coincide with the RWC. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Some visitors probably moved their trip to coincide with the RWC. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The surge of Rugby World Cup visitors outstripped expectations - but the benefits could be mixed as a hangover of weaker tourism lingers through summer.

Statistics NZ reported yesterday that 133,000 had ticked a box on their arrival cards to say they were here for the cup, exceeding pre-tournament forecasts of 95,000 World Cup visitors by 40 per cent. But the tally is not simply extra visitors. The actual increase in arrivals compared to last year is less than 80,000 - suggesting 55,000 fewer non-World Cup arrivals than last year, though this does not take into account any World Cup visitors who may have come anyway.

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub said the benefits of the influx were "negligible".

Visitor arrivals had been flat in the lead-up to the World Cup, and they could stagnate again during the crucial summer months.

"What tends to happen around a big event is people who were going to come to New Zealand anyway [move their trip to] come during the event," he said. "The risk is that as summer unfolds, we won't see as many people from places like South Africa, England and Australia."

The benefits were confined to pockets, and businesses outside them lost out. The main winner was, surprisingly, supermarkets - probably because people stayed in to watch games, Mr Eaqub said.

Tourism NZ chief executive Kevin Bowler said a key success of the cup was the good publicity from visiting journalists. "We had a very large programme of targeting media to experience New Zealand beyond the rugby field ... There's nothing more powerful than an independent opinion."

The tournament made $269 million in ticket sales, $188 million of it from Kiwis. The $81 million worth bought by overseas visitors covered just over half of the International Rugby Board's hosting fee of $150 million.

Tournament organisers expected to be left with a deficit of $39 million.

About $1.2 billion in investments went into projects that contributed to the country's hosting of the World Cup, including $555 million in stadium upgrades and more than $200 million in local government expenses.

About half of the total was directly funded by taxpayers and ratepayers.

- NZ Herald

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