Growth in UK sports tourism is only going in one direction, and hotels which seize the opportunities will score handsomely - SportsHotels - The sports accommodation experts

Growth in UK sports tourism is only going in one direction, and hotels which seize the opportunities will score handsomely

When Manchester United and Manchester City ran out on to Wembley’s hallowed turf for the 2023 Emirates FA Cup Final, 90,000 voices cheered them to the 133-metre height of the stadium’s landmark arch.

That’s 90,000 people who were liberally spending their money in London’s bars, clubs, cafes and restaurants in a most welcome shot in the arm to the local economy. A sizeable proportion spent the night in celebration – or commiseration – in a London hotel.

It was a perfect illustration of the remarkable multiplier effect that sports tourism brings to the towns and cities across the country which host major events, and of the imperative for hotels and other leisure industry providers to tap into this relentlessly growing market.

According to Statista, sports event ticket revenue in the UK has risen inexorably, despite the interruption of the pandemic years, from $1.4 billion in 2017 to £2.12 billion this year, with $2.2 billion forecast for next year.

It’s little wonder when you look at the cornucopia of sporting goodies on offer. The year kicked off with the Guinness Six Nations in February and March, closely followed by Cheltenham, that gloriously madcap festival of horse racing.

April saw the Grand National, June will provide more racing treats at Royal Ascot and the Derby and then the summer will settle in with The Ashes at Lords and Edgbaston. The action-packed list goes on in similar fashion throughout the year.

Football, of course, is the biggest draw. Visit Britain’s most recent Football Tourism in the UK report showed that overseas visitors who went to a football match spent £1.4 billion across the UK in total during their trip in 2019, up 84% on the £742 million spent in 2011 when the research was last conducted.

But thousands of people are also attracted to events such as golf, tennis, motor racing, boxing, snooker, athletics, UFC and, oddly enough, American football, whose NFL London Games have caught the imagination of fans from all over the world.

Apart from the passive spectator market, there is also huge, post-pandemic activity in the participant sector, with sports bodies, youth teams and local clubs taking advantage of recently-rediscovered travel freedom.

Every week, there is some form of sporting event or activity in every part of the UK, from local park runs to major events, and accommodation outlets which position themselves smartly will benefit disproportionately, especially in the quieter times of the season.

Large events bring in the crowds, but not every hotel is situated close to a major venue. However, they can make themselves aware of the activities which are taking place in their local area, what local groups are up to and be ready to offer their services.

They can tap into existing local attractions, such as gyms or well-known instructors, take full advantage of their location for, say, hiking and cycling, and capitalise on the facilities they have, such as health and wellness retreats.

Hotels which can add value to the training regimes of travelling parties, with facilities such as swimming pools, indoor gyms and tennis courts or even just safe outdoor space, will make themselves more attractive to those in charge of such parties. Proximity to venues, flexible cancellation and pricing are, of course, key attributes.

The leisure market has had its trials and tribulations in recent years and has faced some of the toughest trading conditions in living memory. The sports tourism market provides unrivalled opportunities to make good some of the damage of the Covid years.

Many hotels are already alert to the lucrative possibilities to be had from hosting such groups. is partnering with more than 400 individual establishments and chains to help them take advantage of the opportunities outlined above to maximize sports related bookings. Enterprises which make themselves open to these opportunities will score heavily. If they ignore them, it will be a something of an own goal.

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