(MENAFN Press) Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
As the Barclays Premier League kicks off again 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 AED4.15 billion (706 million), the equivalent of AED 4,622 (785)per fan and AED 1,177 (200) more than the average visitor (AED 3,433/ 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 www.visitbritain.com/football.
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 720million 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 900million 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, VisitBritainanalysed 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 AED 6.4 billion (1.1bn).
Visitors who played sport in Britain spent AED 7 billion (1.2bn), so as a total figure, sports tourism is worth AED 13.5 billion (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.