Sports Tourism – a growing phenomenon. VisitBritain hopes for more high-spending sports fans

Sports Tourism seems to be a new angle of how to get people to spend more on their money on travel. There is sports tourism by those actively taking part in sports, like skiing, cycling etc. And there are spectator trips, with people attracted to large events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, F1 Grand Prix. Globally in 2003 the amount spent on sports tourism was about $51bn, equivalent 10% of the total international tourism market. VisitBritain says in 2011 some 900,000 football tourists visited Britain – (which included 61,000 from the USA).  They £706 million in total – an average of around £785 per visitor – during their trip, which is around £200 more than average UK visitors who do not come here for sport. In August the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said a priority is exploiting the role of sport as a magnet for tourists ….”  The VisitBritain figures do not mention the numbers of Brits who fly abroad for sporting events elsewhere, taking their money abroad. 


  • 22 Oct 2012  (VisitBritain)

National Football Museum

VisitBritain welcomes the world to watch our world-class football

As the Barclays Premier League kicks off again this week after a high-profile international break, new figures released by national tourism agency VisitBritain show that nearly one million overseas visitors watched a game of football here last year.

These 900,000 foreign football tourists spent a substantial £706 million, the equivalent of £785 per fan and £200 more than the average visitor (£583).

VisitBritain joined forces with the English Premier League back in 2008 to help promote the home of football in key overseas tourism markets using links to – and testimonials from – Premier League players and clubs. This partnership both builds interest in Britain and inspires fans to visit.

Around 40% of foreign fans going to a football match said that watching sport was the main reason for visiting the UK. The research also suggests that football works as a highly effective tool in enticing visitors to Britain at some of the quieter times of the year, with the greatest proportion of inbound visitors going to a football match between January and March.

Holiday visitors from Norway have the highest propensity to include ‘going to a football match’ (one-in-thirteen), followed by visits from the UAE. The markets generating the highest numbers of football spectating visits in 2011 were; Ireland (174,000), Norway (80,000), USA (61,000), Spain (54,000) and Germany (48,000). Mexico, Sweden and Iceland also featured highly in the category of ‘highest chance of going to a game’.

Football also encourages visitors to explore beyond London. The Premier League grounds attracting the largest number of overseas fans are in the North West. Nearly 20% of visitors who came here to see a game went to Old Trafford, followed closely by Anfield.

Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain said: “The Premier League is known as the most international and exciting league in the world , supported by fans across the globe who want to find out more about their favourite players, come and see them play and explore their local areas.”

“Our partnership with the Premier League not only highlights the value of sports tourism to the UK economy, but it also helps drive inbound visits by inspiring travel to the UK at traditionally quieter times of the year.”

VisitBritain has used its partnership with the Premier League to film international players such as Sandro, Tim Howard and Brede Hangeland talking about where they love in Britain – the films can be found at

The Barclays Premier League is the biggest continuous annual global sporting event in the world. Across nine months of the year 380 matches are viewed in 212 territories worldwide and coverage of the matches is available in approximately 720m households.

Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League said: “The Premier League is now the most watched and supported football league in the world and there’s a huge amount of effort being made to connect with our 900m international fans. Our clubs have worked very hard to make Premier League grounds more welcoming and are striving to deliver a first-rate experience for all fans. Little though beats the thrill of a Premier League matchday and it’s very encouraging to hear that football can play an important role in increasing the numbers of international visitors to this country.”

Minister for Sport and Tourism Hugh Robertson said: “The Premier League is one of this country’s most successful exports and known the world over. It is no surprise that it has become a big draw for tourists who want to experience the most exciting league in the world in person. VisitBritain and the Premier League’s partnership is also showing overseas fans what more our country has to offer, helping to drive strong tourist spend.”

Inbound visits that include going to live sport

As part of a wider piece of research, VisitBritain analysed the visits that included going to a live sporting event – including football.

From Lord’s, Old Trafford and Wimbledon to Ascot, Wales Millennium Stadium and St Andrews, the list of venues where overseas visitors can enjoy our world-class sporting action stretches across Britain.

The survey found that around 1.3 million tourists went to a live sporting event in 2011, that’s 4 per cent of all visits, with the total amount spent by this group reaching £1.1bn.

Visitors who played sport in Britain spent £1.2bn, so as a total figure, sports tourism is worth £2.3bn to the UK economy each year.

The greatest volume of spectators for golf came from the USA, Rugby is unsurprisingly popular with the Irish and French with Cricket by far attracting the most spectators from Australia. A somewhat peculiar result is that residents of France are the next largest contributor to the cricket watching fraternity (could be ex-pat community). Horse racing is popular with visitors from Asia Pacific and Middle East but has truly global appeal.

Notes to Editors:

Access our media centre at
Register at for images of Britain

Results taken from the VisitBritain sponsored question on the 2011 Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey.

2.  VisitBritain’s dedicated football content can be found at: . VisitBritain destination content is also positioned on the Premier League website for the 2012-13 season for all teams. This includes a destination guide, things to see and do, as well as image and video content:

3.  Last year VisitBritain launched a dedicated Premier League section on their website. This contains exclusive interviews with key international Premier League players on what they most like about living in Britain, as well as recommendations on what visitors should see and do while in the country

4.  This is just the start of an extraordinary period for Britain hosting the world’s elite sportsmen and sportswomen, and of course those keen to come and support their efforts; the Rugby League World Cup in 2013, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in 2014, the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2015, the World Athletics Championship in 2017 and the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 are all set to ensure that while the Olympic movement will be turning its attention the Brazil for the next Summer Games, Britain will remain centre-stage when it comes to sport.


The CAA passenger survey in 2011 is at


From VisitBritain

Monthly Inbound Update: August 2012 (11/10/2012)

It is estimated there were 420,000 visits from overseas to the UK in July and August primarily for the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympic Games (to participate, watch or work at).

260,000 of which were from Europe                                                                                                (210,000 from EU15 countries, 20,000 from A12 countries)

80,000 of which were from North America
80,000 of which were from elsewhere
2. In addition it is estimated a further 170,000 visits from overseas in July and August involved attending an official, ticketed Olympic or Paralympic event during their stay.

3. So in total it is estimated 590,000 visits from overseas to the UK in July and August were
primarily due to, or involved attending an official ticketed event at the London 2012 Olympic
or Paralympic Games.

4. In total it is estimated that these 590,000 visits involved spending around £760 million, on average spending £1,290. This includes all foreign money spent by overseas residents on their visit to the UK and would include any London 2012 tickets bought before or during the visit.

……. and there is a lot more at

and more  VisitBritain data at



However, Telegraph reports that: 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed there were 3.18 million trips to the UK by visitors from overseas in July 2012 compared with 3.36 million last year.

It also showed the amount spent by tourists from abroad fell from £2.13 billion to just over £2 billion.

Meanwhile, UK residents made 5.75 million trips abroad in July this year compared with just under 5.74 million in July 2011.



At the Beijing Olympics in 2008

During the Games next year, one website says:  “China will host 280,000 athletes, referees, journalists and other workers from more than 200 countries and regions, according to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games. And about 5 million overseas tourists came to Beijing during the year of the Games.  link

Another website says Tourism experts forecasted approximately 2m tourists would flock to Beijing in the 2 weeks of the Games. It was estimated that 500,000 of these 2 million visitors would be coming from overseas. However, during the Games itself these numbers did not materialize.

No indication of how many Brits went to the Beijing Games.




England’s sports tourism industry worth 2.3bn

24 Oct 11

New research by VisitBritain says England’s sports tourism industry is worth £2.3bn and sees around three million overseas visitors a year.

Britain’s national tourism agency also found nearly two million overseas visitors watch sport at venues across the UK each year. These sporting visitors spend an average of £900 per trip, almost twice as much as what the ‘average’ overseas visitor would spend.

The research is in light of Britain hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015. The Rugby World Cup has continued to grow in stature since the first tournament took place in 1987 and is now the third largest sporting event in the world, sitting behind only the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. It draws in a TV audience of billions of people over a six-week period in more than 200 countries across the globe.

……….. and it goes on ………..



Sport provides a boost for UK tourist industry as 900,000 football fans flock to Britain

By TravelMail

22 October 2012    (extracts)

The UK tourist industry has had a welcome boost from foreign sports fans after it was reported that 900,000 football tourists visited Britain last year.

The fans spent £706 million in total – an average of around £785 per visitor – during their trip, according to figures released by VisitBritain.

The tourism organisation said football was a ‘highly effective tool’ in enticing visitors to Britain at some of the quieter times of the year.

Around 1.3 million tourists went to a live sports event in the UK in 2011, spending a total of £1.1 billion.

But VisitBritain said sports tourism is worth £2.3 billion to the British economy as visitors who actually took part in sport spent another £1.2 billion on their hobby.

The average £785 spend by a traveller attending a football match is £200 more than the £583 spent by the average overseas visitor who did not end up on the terraces.

Getting to a game was the main reason for making the trip to Britain, according to 40 per cent of foreign football fans.
Following the research by the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey, tourist bosses have now identified football as a ‘highly effective tool’ in enticing visitors to Britain at some of the quieter times of the year, VisitBritain said.

Some 174,000 of the foreign tourists who watched a football match in the UK in 2011 were from Ireland, followed by 80,000 from Norway, 61,000 from the United States, 54,000 from Spain and 48,000 from Germany.

Visitors from Mexico, Sweden and Iceland also featured highly in the category of ‘highest chance of going to a game’.

Golf was most likely to draw in spectators from the US while rugby was popular with the Irish and French.

Cricket attracted most of its overseas spectators from Australia but in ‘a somewhat peculiar result’ the next largest group were residents of France, VisitBritain said.  A possible explanation is that these may be expats.

Horseracing proved popular with visitors from Asia Pacific and the Middle East but also had global appeal.

VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said: ‘Our partnership with the Premier League not only highlights the value of sports tourism to the UK economy, but it also helps drive inbound visits by inspiring travel to the UK at traditionally quieter times of the year.’

Travel and tourism bosses believe that Britain’s tourist sector is now in a period of ‘unrivalled opportunities’ triggered by hosting a range of top-flight sports events and this year’s successful Olympic Games in London.

‘The Rugby League World Cup in 2013, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in 2014, the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2015, the World Athletics Championship in 2017 and the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 are all set to ensure that while the Olympic movement will be turning its attention to Brazil for the next summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, Britain will remain centre stage when it comes to sport.’



Culture Secretary calls for post-Olympic tourism revolution

14 August 2012

• £8 million marketing campaign targeting Chinese visitors
• £2 million to boost domestic tourism marketing
• More domestic package breaks
• Boosting sport tourism
• Supporting cultural tourism


n £8 million marketing campaign aiming to triple the number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK, further investment in domestic tourism, plus increased sport and cultural tourism are at the heart of a renewed drive to create a lasting tourism legacy from the success of London 2012.

[One of the key planks of the strategy:

  • Exploiting the role of sport as a magnet for tourists by making the most of the opportunities of hosting upcoming world cups in rugby league, rugby union, and cricket – as well as the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the World 
    Athletic Championships in 2017.


The Business of Sport Tourism Report

Sport tourism has become one of the hottest businesses in sports. It is already one of the fastest growing sectors of the global travel and tourism industry with estimates of
its value in 2003 alone as high as $51bn, equivalent 10% of the total international tourism market.

Sport tourism encompasses both fans travelling to watch sport and people pursuing their sport abroad. The economies of cities, regions and even countries around the world are increasingly reliant on the visiting golfer and skier or the travelling football, rugby or cricket supporter.

The sport tourist is at the heart of strategies that spend tens of millions of dollars on attracting an Olympic Games or World Cup. These flagship events help build new
transport systems, improve airports and clean up cities – all because the sport tourist is coming to town.

Sport tourists are passionate, high-spending, enjoy new sporting experiences and often stimulate other tourism.  Their direct benefit to a destination is cash – their indirect
benefit can be years of follow-on tourists. Sport tourism is now a tool to make achieve many things – to make money, create thousands of new jobs and even help
change cultural perceptions such as in the Middle East and South Africa.




Sports Tourism set to take over Travel Industry

MARCH 28, 2012 (Busines Barbados)
India v West Indies - ICC Twenty20 World Cup Super Eights
India v West Indies – ICC Twenty20 World Cup Super Eights

In 2008, travel and tourism generated approximately US$5,890 billion of global economic activity.

With the contribution of travel and tourism to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expected to rise from 9.9% in 2008 to 10.5% by 2018, the next decade will see tourism revenues exceeding US$10,000 billion.  [It does not give any clues where this info comes from]. 

But what is at the epicenter of this eruption?  The simple answer: Sports Tourism.

More and more, countries are becoming increasingly reliant on combining sport and tourism to jump start their recession-stricken economies.

Tourists who are engaged in travel-for-sport are typically high spending, stay longer than other tourist categories and often stimulate other tourism sectors.

Their direct benefit to a destination, such as Barbados, is cash; their indirect benefit can be years of return arrivals.

To prove it, look no further than the Olympic Games, the grandest of the world’s mega-sporting events.

Barcelona, already a popular destination with vacation makers, more than doubled its number of tourist arrivals in the 10 years following the 1992 Olympic Games. It has since become the sixth most attractive European city to locate a business, up from 11th place prior to the hosting of the Games.

Sydney generated US$2 billion in additional business following the 2000 Olympic Games. With unprecedented media coverage, tourism in Sydney has become a thriving economic force in the last decade.

But its not just the Games of the past, but the Games of the future, that will provide the real economic stimulus for the hosts.

A recent study commissioned by the Brazilian government, showed that the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will provide a boost of more than US$24 billion from 2010 until 2027.

The 2016 Olympics and 2014 FIFA World Cup will also provide Brazil with a platform in which to attract foreign investment.

Brazil’s economy is currently the tenth largest in the world. Its predicted to be fifth by 2016.

Sports tourism is now a tool to make and achieve many things – to generate significant revenues, create thousands of new jobs, regenerate urban infrastructure, and to develop or reappraise entire destinations.

For South Africa, the more than 400,000 tourist arrivals for the 2010 FIFA World Cup meant a reappraisal of pre-tournament misconceptions – held by locals and visitors alike.

It was much the same for the Caribbean after the hosting of the 2010 ICC World Twenty20.

The 21st century is witnessing traditional sun and sea vacations – once the main stay of the travel and tourism industry – being replaced by sport-related vacations and a new breed of tourist keen to attend an ever increasing calendar of readily-accessible mega sporting events.

Sports Tourism – for many years the “sleeping giant” of travel – is set to play a catalytic role in the sparking of a new global tourism revolution.

And its already upon us.

Sports Tourism already contributes an astonishing 14% of overall travel and tourism receipts and this is set to grow exponentially over the next decade. [No details of where this comes from].