Irish fans make up third of Cheltenham racegoers, study shows
IRISH punters spent €22 million attending one of the UK's biggest horse racing events last year, according to a new study.
Almost one in three tickets for the Cheltenham Festival are purchased by Irish racegoers, research carried out by the University of Gloucestershire found.
Last year they spent €22.3m (£19.23m) spread across travel, accommodation, tickets and entertainment.
Fans based in Ireland bought 57,375 tickets and on average 14,343 Irish visitors attended each day of the four-day festival.
A crowd of more than 260,000 attend the annual festival, which is due to begin on March 14.
The study sought to measure the direct economic benefit of punters who travelled from Ireland to Prestbury Park.
The analysis was compiled from 810 completed questionnaires and supplemented by data from the racecourse.
In addition, statistical analysis of ticket booking data has shown that since 2010 the number of Irish punters has increased by 22 per cent.
Ian Renton, chief executive of the Cheltenham Festival, said: "The festival is one the biggest and most successful sporting occasions of the year involving Britain and Ireland.
"Over the years, it has become synonymous with Ireland through the participation of its great horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and staff.
"This is the first time we have studied the economic impact of Ireland's participation and the results demonstrate the very significant ongoing role played by Irish fans to the success of the festival.
"Irish fans make up close to one-third of our attendance over the week, helping to create a truly unique atmosphere and experience for all racegoers.
"Our mutual love affair with the festival, of course, involves so much more than statistics.
"Our shared love and passion for our sport creates an enduring relationship and long may that continue.
"We look forward greatly to hosting our Irish racegoers once again in a few weeks' time for the 2017 renewal."
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: "When Ian was appointed at Cheltenham, I told him he now had one of the most important jobs in Irish racing.
"We have been aware for some time of the value of the racing and breeding industries to the Irish economy, which is estimated at over €1.1 billion (£9.34m) per annum, so it is fascinating to now see the value of the Irish impact on Cheltenham.
"Ireland has long had a love affair with Cheltenham because they put on a wonderful festival where we see the best National Hunt horses in the world taking each other on.
"The importance of Cheltenham to Ireland goes beyond just the punters and racegoers as winning there is of vital importance to owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys and can be the highlight of a career, or the making of a horse's pedigree.
"Cheltenham has often been described as the Olympic Games of jump racing and we are all counting the days to March 14."
Researchers found that the highest spend by Irish racegoers last year was on entertainment, including betting, at €5.23m (£4.5m), followed by food and drink at €4.5m (£3.87m), accommodation at €4.1m (£3.54m) and entry fees at €2.6m (£2.24m).
The average spend per attendee included entertainment at €556 (£479), tour package at €508 (£437), accommodation at €419 (£361) and food and drink at €374 (£322).