The British and Irish Lions rugby tour last winter attracted 25,760 international visitors and contributed $194m to GDP, according to a report released today by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The post-tour economic impact and benefits report, put together by PWC for MBIE, states the tour generated 545,000 international guest nights during the 10-match series in June and July last year.
Of the $194m contributed to GDP – $110m of which was direct – 35% was for accommodation, 24% for food and beverages and 19% was for domestic travel.
The tour also attracted 56,260 domestic travellers.
Just over 2500 full-time equivalent jobs were supported, 1,764 of those directly. Most of the jobs, 38%, were in the accommodation sector with 34% of them in the food and beverage sector.
Auckland was the big regional winner from the series, hosting one tour match and two tests, generating $67.9m in GDP and supporting 808 jobs.
Whangarei, which hosted the first match of the tour and had the smallest stadium, recorded the smallest economic impact – $6.2m and 96 full-time equivalent jobs – of the six host cities studied.
A survey of 1,000 New Zealand residents showed 68% of them believed the series showed New Zealand was friendly and hospitable for visitors and 64% of them thought the country was able to host a major event.
A survey of 419 of the British and Irish visitors showed 74% of them believed their expectations were predominately exceeded by the friendliness of the local people and 69% believed the same of the New Zealand landscape and scenery.
Over two-thirds of visitors, 68%, were extremely likely to recommend New Zealand to others as a holiday destination.
“The Lions tour had a positive impact on perceptions of New Zealand in general, particularly in terms of Kiwis being friendly and welcoming locals,” said Rene de Monchy, Tourism New Zealand’s director of trade, PR and major events.
“Many of the visitors also talked about the sense of safety they felt in New Zealand. It’s a great endorsement of our country and of our unique Kiwi manaakitanga.”
The tour was an opportunity to boost the number of European visitors to New Zealand during the winter months, in keeping with Tourism New Zealand’s strategy of seasonal and regional dispersal.
In total, 342,000 seats were filled to watch matches across seven venues from Whangarei to Dunedin, with more than 53,000 seats taken by international visitors. On average, each international tourist spent $332 per person per night during their stay in New Zealand.
The previous Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005 saw around 20,000 international fans inject more than $123m into the economy. That event contributed a total of $135m to the national economy including $12m from New Zealand fans.