Newcastle reaps a Rugby World Cup windfall – despite England’s exit
Published 07/07/2016
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England may have made an untimely exit from the Rugby World Cup – much to the dismay of ITV and the country’s pubs – but for Newcastle, at least, the rugby has been a roaring success.

The three matches that St James’ Park hosted over the last two weekends are thought to have generated £43m for the Newcastle economy, as crowds flocked to the city’s shops, bars and restaurants.


Meanwhile, match-day hotel occupancy hit an impressive 99%, despite – as we noted in our blog last month – Newcastle and Gateshead adding over 1,200 new hotel rooms between 2007 and 2014 alone.


Perhaps more important is the enduring impact of Newcastle’s World Cup rugby experience. Anyone visiting the city during the event – whether a local, a Scot, or one of the many international visitors from all over the world – is likely to have been impressed by Newcastle’s culture, buzz and friendly welcome, epitomised by the popular Fanzone.


Tourism bosses will be hoping that those who have discovered Newcastle and the North East for the first time will feel compelled to return – and that their word of mouth, together with all the positive imagery beamed across the world, will prompt others to give our region a look.


Of course, the potential for major sporting events to have a lasting impact on destinations, way beyond that immediate economic windfall, is well documented.


Though the Olympics are clearly a much larger undertaking, typically accompanied with significant investment in infrastructure, the 1992 Games undoubtedly helped to reimagine Barcelona as an attractive city break destination.


Closer to home, the 2002 Commonwealth Games are widely credited as a driver of Manchester’s renaissance, with the city attracting over 90 million annual visitors now compared to 18 million then.


After the successful Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, there were some calls – restated subsequently by Council Leader Nick Forbes – for Newcastle to consider a 2022 bid.


Clearly, hosting an event of that magnitude would require a whole different scale of ambition and investment. However, as Newcastle basks in the warm glow of the Rugby World Cup’s success, it will be interesting to see whether the city develops an appetite for an even bigger prize.


Written by Graham Soult
Photograph by Andrew Smith

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