The tourism industry in the UK has experienced a major boost from sports fans. According to new figures from VisitBritain, 900,000 foreigners visited the country last year just to watch football, spending £706 million (or about £785 each on average). In total, some 1.3 million people entered Britain to attend a live sports event and spent a total £1.1 billion. However, the agency says that sports tourism is worth £2.3 billion to the economy, as visitors spent another £1.2 billion last year on their hobby.
Revealing research carried out by the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) International Passenger Survey, VisitBritain says that football is a very effective tool in attracting visitors during some of the quieter times of the year for tourism. The most visitors attending football matches in the UK travel between January and March. The average £785 spent by a football fan was £200 more than what normal foreign visitors spent. According to 40% of the fans, the main reason they spent more was because of the cost of making the trip.
Of the total number of football fans who attended a match in Britain last year, 174,000 were from Ireland, 80,000 from Norway, 61,000 from the US, 54,000 from Spain and 48,000 from Germany. Foreigners categorised as the most likely to attend a game included those from Mexico, Sweden and Iceland. Although many attended the Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium last year, their favourite stadiums were still the same as the year before. Their number one venue of choice was Old Tafford, second was Anfield, third was Emirates Stadium and fourth was Stamford Bridge. Others in the top ten included (not in order): Villa Park, White Hart Lane, Etihad Stadium, Wembley, Upton Park and Goodison Park.
Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, says that they are now the most supported and watched football league in the world. There’s a significant amount of effort going into connecting with international fans. It’s very encouraging that football can have an important role in bringing more international travellers to the country.
In general, sports is a big help for the tourism industry, as some of the top venues in the UK stretch across the country – from Old Trafford, to Millennium Stadium, to Lord’s Cricket Ground, to Wimbledon for tennis, to St Andrews Links for golf, to Ascot Racecourse for horseracing. Golf was categorised as the most likely to attract spectators from the US, while rugby is the most popular among foreigners from Ireland and France. The most likely people to visit the UK for cricket are from Australia, but the second most likely are surprisingly from France. Horseracing is most popular among visitors from the Asia Pacific region and Middle East, but the sport has a worldwide appeal.
Sandie Dawe, the chief executive of VisitBritain, said that the Premier League is considered the most exciting and international league in the world. It has the support of fans around the world who want to know more about their favourite players, see them play in person and explore where they live. The agency’s partnership with the league highlights the value of sport tourism to the nation’s economy, as well as helps drive inbound visitors by stimulating travel to Britain during what are usually quieter times of the year.