Fáilte Ireland is calling for 'a new perspective' on how to attract big-ticket sporting events

The state agency wants outside help to come up with a 10-year strategy.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

THE STATE BODY responsible for developing Ireland’s tourism sector is looking for advice on how the country could attract high-value events like American football and yachting tournaments in a bid to beef up off-peak trade.

Fáilte Ireland has tendered for companies to come up with a 10-year road map to help it “maximise the economic and social contribution” of so-called ‘event tourism’.

It is looking to attract tournaments and festivals that “support ‘brand Ireland’” and “the key objective of seasonable extension” – extending the peak summer trade into quieter months.

According to the tender document, Fáilte Ireland wants a “new perspective” from firms with specialist knowledge of the “complexity of the global events sector”.

Five years ago, the state-backed agency rolled out ‘Event Ireland’, an offshoot that is tasked with attracting international competitions to these shores. It provides financial aid and practical advice to stakeholders bidding for large-scale sporting and cultural events.

Last year, ‘Event Ireland’ allocated €400,000 to 16 such events, which Fáilte Ireland said brought more than 30,000 overseas visitors to the Republic.

Revenues generated by these events were estimated to be worth just under €20 million, a small fraction of the total €8.3 billion tourism spend recorded for 2016.

Earlier this year, tourism minister Shane Ross – who has introduced emergency legislation to let the state underwrite costs associated with the 2023 Rugby World Cup – suggested that sports tourism could shield the travel industry from Brexit.

Tourism 851_90502320 Minister Shane Ross
Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie


Fáilte Ireland said in the tender document that “there is no denial” that international events can help extend the travel season into the “off-peak months”.

However, it noted that competition for high-value events has ramped up in recent years, especially from the country’s regional rivals.

Its Scottish counterparts are “now reporting €75 million of economic benefit annually through hosting events”, the tender said.

“In the last three years, Wales has mirrored Scotland’s strategic approach and has set itself the target of creating a balanced portfolio of events that capture substantial economic benefits and deliver wider socio-cultural benefits.”

The tender document also noted that the challenges facing Ireland include poor infrastructure, a lack of in-agency knowledge and a finite number of national governing sport bodies.

‘Suitably diverse’

According to figures compiled by Fáilte Ireland, three-in-five people who attended a sports event last year were overseas travellers. Almost half of them were visiting Ireland for the first time.

Most people who attend sporting events here are either participating or supporting a friend or family member.

failte ireland sport
Source: Fáilte Ireland

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Unsurprisingly, nationalities that attended tournaments last year were “suitably diverse”, although 15% came from mainland Britain – Ireland’s biggest tourism market.

As previously reported by Fora, the number of British visitors coming to the island have fallen in recent months and Irish tourism bigwigs have sought to offset this trend by concentrating on growing the number of mainland Europeans that come here.

The average length of stay in Ireland by overseas’ visitors was eight days. That’s on a par with the average number of nights spent here by holidaymakers as a whole.

The highest yielding event was the World Junior and Cadet Kickboxing Championships, which took place in Citywest, Dublin. Each attendee spent an average €792 on accommodation, food and other travel expenses.

People who attended the KBC Laser Radial yachting event spent an average €770 each, while punters who went to see Boston College take on Georgia Tech at the Aer Lingus college football classic coughed up €650 each.

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