News story 1st Oct 2014

AFL Grand Final and Planning for Legacy Tourism Impacts

The AFL Grand Final contributes a large part to Melbourne's claim as the Sporting Capital. 

Melbourne City Council reported the AFL Grand Final generates $36 million of economic activity, and more recently, Bob Stewart from Victoria University noted that Australian Rules Football has an impact of about $1.6 billion each year on the Victorian economy.

Glen Croy

These events and associated competitions inherently induce travel by the teams, coaches, managers and support staff. Increasingly, the events also induce supporters to travel. When travelling they stay at hotels, eat in restaurants, visit attractions, shop, drink, and do much more. The sports events create a tourism impact, and the higher the sport profile, generally the larger the tourism impact.

Whilst mainly the economic impacts are reported, also included are social-cultural and environmental impacts. For example, hooliganism is unwanted social impact by visitors to events, and positively, supporters from different cultures and backgrounds add to the vibrancy of the city. Nonetheless, these impact reports are focused on the immediate event, and underplay some of the potential longer-term or legacy impacts.

In the immediate term, for tourism, there is often much less of a need to promote the events. The event already draws a crowd to create peak demand, often reflected in accommodation prices. The challenges are to distribute event visitors to surrounding locations before and after the event, and attracting and retaining visitors to the state that are not as interested in the event.
Desired tourism legacy outcomes may include exposure of the city to new tourist markets, adding further experiences to the destination profile, and gaining improved collaboration between industry sectors.

To garner legacy tourism takes a strategic approach. Predominately the strategic approach revolves around growing destination exposure, and then directing the exposure to other elements of the destination.

For tourism legacy outcomes, how can the destination engage with potential visitors it previously may not have been able to reach, and how to turn these into actual visitors? There are lessons from product placement. There are also lessons from other tourism event-like scenarios, particularly film tourism.

Product placement is a subtle inclusion and hopeful association with the main happening. The translation of this is place-placement, and luckily for sporting events, often the place is an explicit aspect. Specifically, we will hear and see 'Melbourne' many times in the broadcast and reports. Unfortunately, the event focus is not always the same exposure and engagement needed to attract visitors, especially those not already likely to visit.

Here, the lessons from film tourism are relevant. Films share many characteristics to major sporting events. They are generally infrequent, and garner a lot of attention in that short period. They also gain media exposure, and the bigger they are in celebrity, budget, story and the like, then the bigger the exposure.

The lesson is that destination media exposure starts with the film, though focuses on the destination, and especially the experiences potential tourists could have when they visit. A great example is the now well-known relationship between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films and New Zealand. The books and films were not set in New Zealand, though it has been through the media exposure that this relationship is now common knowledge.

This has been in part through the advertising campaign of Tourism New Zealand, though much more influentially through the media familiarisation tours they hosted. Media familiarisation tours are when a destination provides a journalist with access to a range of experiences, from which the journalist presents a report for a magazine, newspaper or television show.

In the Grand Final media coverage look for the players, commentators and associated high profile people and how their experiences are capture away from the sport and stadium. Does someone visit Mornington Peninsula's wineries, and is someone else interviewed walking through McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery?

Tourism Victoria, in partnership with the tourism regions, has a very good media familiarisation programme gaining exposure for the state. In Victoria we will not see most of their work; it is in the external markets where the media presentations are made. All the same, the Grand Final sparks an initial interest to look at the great visitor experiences Victoria has to offer. These continuing media exposures maintain Melbourne and Victoria as a desirable destination, providing legacy impacts adding to the year-round vibrancy of the state.

This article originally appeared in Herald Sun.

Dr Glen Croy is a Senior Lecturer in the Monash Business School's Department of Management.
He researches and teaches in tourism, with a particular interest in media and destination image strategies.