Northern Ireland news

Tourism chiefs say Ireland can cope with Rugby World Cup influx

Pictured at the launch of Ireland's bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup are Brian O'Driscoll, Stormont economy minister Simon Hamilton, Irish tourism minister Patrick O'Donovan and Philip Browne, CEO of the IRFU. Picture by INPHO/Billy Stickland
Gareth McKeown

TOURISM chiefs have backed Ireland's ability to cope with an influx of half a million visitors if the Rugby World Cup is staged on the island.

A cross-border bid has been launched to host the 2023 tournament, which could generate as much as £1.7 billion.

It is projected that 445,000 people could visit Ireland during the event, but Shane Clarke of Tourism Ireland believes the country can meet the challenge.

"I don't think we would have any concerns about that really because we have to remember the tournament is run in September and October so obviously that's off-season for tourism," he said.

"Secondly it is being held in 2023 and we will know in a year's time if we're successful so there is a good lead in time to it and people would be able to plan for that very well and rise to the occasion."

Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, also dismissed any concern about accommodation, noting that teams would be spread out across the island and many visitors would return home after the group stages.

"Given that Cardiff had it and I think there are 800 bedrooms in Cardiff I'm sure we'd be able to manage," she said.

"Within Northern Ireland there are currently 30 hotel projects and that would see the actual number of hotel rooms increasing by 25 per cent so that would certainly also play a part."

Twelve stadiums are included in Ireland's bid, including a redeveloped Casement Park, Celtic Park in Derry and Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

The GAA manages eight of the grounds, but the second largest on the island - Thurles' Semple Stadium - was overlooked, in a decision described as "beyond comprehension" by one TD.

Dick Spring, chairman of the Irish bid, cited inadequate transport links as the reason why the 53,000 capacity ground was snubbed.

The selection process will run until November 2017, when World Rugby will make its final decision.

Ireland face competition from France and South Africa, but are currently the bookies' favourite.

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