Question marks are being raised over Auckland's readiness to cope with a flood of international sporting events to be staged in the city in 2021.
Richard Croucher, head of the Sports and Tourism Sector of global accounting and business advisory firm BDO, says Auckland could be overrun as thousands of competitors and visitors are expected to pour in for the multiple events.
"I think Auckland could be smashed [with visitors] with all that is happening," he says.
The most high profile is the America's Cup defence in early 2021 but the city is also to play host that year to cricket's ODI (One Day International) women's World Cup, the women's Rugby World Cup (expected to boost the Auckland economy by $3.6 million) and the men's Softball World Cup.
As well as annual events like the ASB Classic tennis and the New Zealand Rally (which from next year will again be part of the World Rally Championship), the city is also gearing up for the APEC leaders' conference in 2021, an event now needing a new venue following the devastating fire at the SkyCity convention centre building site in October.
"There's loads on and it will be a big test," says Croucher. "The world will be watching closely and, while many (events) are televised and are a good billboard for New Zealand, the risk is – if we don't get it right – we may not get more of these events in the future."
Croucher says aside from the long-running conversation "still taking place" about a new stadium in downtown Auckland, there are other "big question marks": Can the industry find enough good staff to employ for the duration; will there be enough beds?
"It's well known that Auckland uses up its accommodation capacity pretty quickly," he says, "and while a lot of room stock is coming on stream, will it be ready in time? The jury is out and it will definitely be tight; but we're Kiwis and I'll back us to sort it out.
Croucher says sports tourism is a big contributor not just to Auckland but to New Zealand as a whole (Sport New Zealand estimates this at $4.9 billion per annum) and is hugely important to the economy.
The World Masters Games based in Auckland in 2017, for example, attracted more than 27,000 visitors (including 20,149 from overseas) who stayed almost nine nights each on average and injected $42.7m into the local economy.
The last America's Cup staged here was said to have introduced $450m into New Zealand's economy and is expected to be more in 2021.
Croucher, who works closely with community organisations, the hospitality industry and tourism operators to help them take advantage of the demand around sports tourism, believes organisers are looking to stage more events in the regions as Auckland gets busier.
This is already happening – the New Zealand Golf Open is held every year near Queenstown while the Black Sticks were recently in Taranaki playing a series of warm-up hockey matches against Japan and an Olympic qualifier against Korea (which they won).
One of the largest participation events in the country - the BDO Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge - is being held this weekend with up to 7000 competitors and, Croucher says, probably double that number in supporters.
"These events can really boost the local community and hospitality industries and again outline how important sports tourism is to the economy," he says. "Our cycle trails bring a lot of people to New Zealand too; they are younger, stay longer and spend more."
Sport New Zealand statistics show that 74.2 per cent of all international visitors walk, hike, trek or tramp. Walking and hiking tourists are also high-yield visitors, spending 28 per cent more than the average tourist expenditure – and show it is not just the big events which bring in revenue.
BDO is in the second year as the naming rights sponsor for the Taupo event and while Croucher concedes accounting and business advisory and cycling don't appear to be an obvious match, the company has had a long history of supporting the sport.
"It is a core element of our focus on well-being and is good for business networking and opportunities (in the UK, BDO has established BDOVELO, a networking group for business executives who like to cycle).
"Each year we have 150 taking part at Taupo including our partners, staff, clients and their families. Our people encourage one another to train and will often cycle together which builds relationships."
For more information: www.bdo.nz/sports