Charging into the Rugby World Cup could make a champion of your business

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Big international events that take place in the UK tend to have a big impact on consumer behaviour, as locals embrace the community spirit and party mood that tends to arrive with a nationwide event.

This much has been demonstrated with the royal family time and time again, whether it was the second pregnancy of Kate Middleton, which saw retailers pray she would have a baby girl, or the marital union between her and Prince William in 2011.

Elsewhere, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities in the summer of 2012 generated a UK retail effect of £509m, which saw London firms alone secure £120m, while sporting retailers across the UK saw sales rise amid the London Marathon 2015.

With sports in mind, the Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks off on 18 September and runs until 31 October. The international event will see local teams from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales facing off against overseas competition from Fiji, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and beyond.

How should businesses look at making the most of this additional footfall from home and abroad though? Jared Simon, the COO of accommodation booking app HotelTonight, told Real Business the company was in a fortunate position where things tend to happen naturally.

“For events like the Rugby World Cup, we don’t need to do anything to entice people,” he said. “What we do need to do, however, is make sure that we are working very closely with hotel partners. It’s times like that is when HotelTonight can really shine for hotels and consumers because there’s a lot of activity.”

The company’s service works on a last minute principle, thus customers can only book rooms within a seven-day window. As such, it means hotel clients can update and allocate inventory in real-time, according to availability.

“For consumers it means, even if you didn’t book ahead of time for the Rugby World Cup and you’re concerned it will sell out, you’ll always find rooms for events like that because we’ve empowered hotels with a really flexible tool set,” Simon said.

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He noted that the marketplace it offers is “agile for demand” and drew upon a very pivotal moment for the American company, which entered the UK before another memorable sporting event.

“We launched in London two weeks before the Olympics and people thought we were crazy. Everyone thought the city was going to be on lockdown, but locals left and hotels weren’t full, so it’s amazing how well HotelTonight did,” he recalled.

“We had so much inventory that hotels were really able to target last minute bookings in a way they weren’t able to before, and it really convinced hotels of us.”

The tournament will span not just London, but the entire UK, with Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Cardiff, Exeter, Leeds, Newcastle and more among host cities. EY estimates this will bring in 466,000 overseas visitors who will help contribute £2.2bn to the UK economy.

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According to tourist board VisitEngland, which works in conjunction with the government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport, more than 250,000 people are set to attend local rugby events during the period.

Jeremy Brinkworth, Rugby World Cup project director, VisitEngland, said: “There’s no doubt that “sports tourism” – however defined – is an area of passionate interest to visitors and is therefore a significant vehicle for growing tourism in England.

“Our research shows that in 2013, 25m visitors in Great Britain undertook sports as a main activity for a day visit, while 65m undertook sports as an activity as part of their day visit.

“The Festival of Rugby gives whole communities the opportunity to get involved by throwing rugby-themed events such as street parties, games and matches. Destinations and businesses are encouraged to take part by visiting the Festival website, planning events and downloading the online toolkits.”

The body also offered research that showed the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games contributed £9bn to the UK economy. A sense of involvement was created over the period, as 60 per cent of Brits said they were proud of their heritage and 20 per cent said they plan to have more breaks in England.

Continue reading on the next page to discover why SMEs can appease staff with the tournament, and observe how the looming tournament is already having an impact on retail.

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