Footy grand final fever boosts tourism

Melissa Jenkins
(Australian Associated Press)

No matter which teams claim the prized premierships in Melbourne and Sydney this weekend, the footy fans on the move will be a win for tourism.

Adelaide fans who have snared one of the 16,000 tickets allocated to members of the club will flock to Melbourne this week in the hope the Crows claim their first premiership in 19 years on Saturday.

The Crows face off against the Richmond Football Club, with the Tigers hungry for their first grand final win since 1980.

Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys fans will congregate in Sydney on Sunday for the NRL grand final.

IBISWorld estimates footy fans in both codes spent almost $600 million over the 2013 footy finals across categories including tourism, tickets, betting and pubs and bars.

This year a strong interstate element is at play as thousands of fans from three of the four participating teams travel to be at the games.

Qantas has added flights between Townsville and Sydney this weekend plus extra return flights from Adelaide to Melbourne to seat around 3,700 extra travellers.

Virgin Australia has scheduled extra flights between Adelaide and Melbourne to seat 2,500 people and is working with the Cowboys to provide charter flights to Sydney.

Pubs close to both the MCG and nearby Punt Road Oval, the Tigers’ former home ground, will stage special events, with some charging $100 a ticket for rooftop catered parties.

IBISWorld senior analyst Nick Tarrant said the Australian tourism industry is worth $125 billion and three quarters of that spending comes from domestic travellers.

“Things like the grand final in Melbourne and in Sydney and sporting events in general are drivers of tourism growth,” he said.

Visit Victoria chief executive Peter Bingeman said major events like the AFL grand final contribute significantly to the $24 billion state tourism industry.

“We consider the AFL and the grand final one of our pillar events,” he said.

Mr Bingeman said the grand final was an opportunity to have visitors stay on and attend theatre and other cultural events.

Punters will wager millions on the AFL and NRL clashes, with online gambling driving a rise in betting since 2013 when punters waged $128 million on the AFL and NRL finals.

Mr Tarrant said Australians are forecast to wager $3.9 billion in 2017/18, up $900 million on a decade ago.

“Horse race betting is falling and most of the industry’s growth has been driven by sports, like the footy,” he said.

More than 24,000 interstate and overseas visitors travelled to Sydney for last year’s grand final between the Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm, injecting more than an estimated $20 million into the state economy.

Many visitors to Sydney are expected to make a long weekend out of it as they take advantage of the Labour Day public holiday in NSW, ACT, South Australia and Queensland.

It’s also a long weekend in Victoria, which has a public holiday dedicated to the AFL grand final on Friday.

Business groups say the public holiday is a major blow to the economy, with AI Group estimating it costs the state more than $1.2 billion, as businesses either close for the day and lose revenue or are forced to pay employees extra.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers regulatory impact statement prepared for the Victorian government in 2015 estimated the grand final holiday cost the state between $680 million and $852 million.

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