Sunday, September 20, 2009Contact: Tamarisk Doyle, PR Manager, HRI
045 455685/0872936357
Irish research shows link racing and tourism

The importance of horse racing to Irish tourism was underlined as Fáilte Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) published their latest racing tourism research today. The research was conducted from June 2008 to May 2009 and undertaken by Behaviour & Attitudes.

Today’s results show that Ireland has, in total, almost 70,000 overseas visitors each year who attend at least one race meeting during their trip. By the end of their holiday in Ireland, each of these overseas visitors will have spent approximately €2,028, excluding the cost of travelling to and from Ireland, resulting in almost €140m in overseas revenue.

Furthermore, as about one in four overseas visitors come to Ireland purely to attend a race meeting, the results show that these 17,000 overseas visitors who come to Ireland specifically for horse racing generate almost €35m in during their visits.

The results show that 60% of all overseas racegoers are from the UK with a significant number from the US (14%). Approximately two thirds of overseas visitors to race meetings were likely to return to Ireland for another race meeting within the next three years. The quality of the horse racing and the atmosphere at the races were the two main reasons for visiting Ireland for race meetings followed by the hospitality of the Irish people which ranked a close third.

A full copy of the research can be accessed by clicking at the link at the bottom of the page at:

Commenting on the results, Minister for Arts Sports and Tourism, Mr Martin Cullen TD, said –

“We have always known that we in Ireland have a passion for horses but this survey confirms the fact that many of our overseas visitors share this passion.

“Indeed, Ireland’s international reputation for horse breeding and thoroughbred racing provides yet another opportunity when it comes to winning over new visitors and overseas revenue. I welcome this research on the importance of horse racing to tourism and it will very much inform our future development of the sector.”

Shaun Quinn, Chief Executive of Failte Ireland today emphasized -

“Based largely on these results, we in Fáilte Ireland and our colleagues in Horse Racing Ireland are now in the process of preparing a Winter Racing Campaign in the UK to promote six key race meetings. These fixtures include some of Ireland's top-graded National Hunt races and attract some of the best horses, jockeys and trainers as well as some of the world's most enthusiastic racegoers.

“The UK is our biggest overseas market and horse racing is a vital component in the mix of attractions and assets which tourism in this country can call on to showcase Ireland as an attractive destination of choice”

The Winter Racing Campaign will focus on particular fixtures at Down Royal, Navan, Fairyhouse, Punchestown, Cork and Leopardstown taking place through November and December of this year and will include advertisements in the Racing Post, a direct mail campaign and an online campaign targeting key UK racing websites.

Britain is Ireland’s largest tourist market accounting for almost half of all overseas visitors and 35% of overseas visitor spend. An estimated 1.6 million British visitors came to Ireland for a holiday in 2008.

Commenting on today’s research, Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland said:

“The research findings are extremely positive in that an estimated 68,405 overseas visitors went to a race meeting over the period of a year, attending on 123,129 separate occasions. A quarter of these visitors were specifically racing tourists for whom going to a race meeting was the primary purpose of their trip to Ireland. The research concludes that nearly €140 million in annual expenditure was generated by all the visitors who went horse racing, which illustrates the vital importance of the thoroughbred racing industry from an economic and tourism perspective.”

“We look forward to continuing our work with Failte Ireland to target the key UK market, with the first aim of boosting overseas visits to our high quality, major winter race meetings.”

To underline the importance of horse racing to tourism, Fáilte Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland also recently developed Thoroughbred Trail weekends - a special horse racing weekend with a difference. Horse racing enthusiasts had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the yards of some of Ireland’s top trainers and enjoy top class racing action at the recent Curragh Race meeting (September11-13th).

The innovative weekend package included two nights Bed & Breakfast, dinner, a visit to a Trainers Yard, a tour of the National Stud and a day at the races including lunch at the Curragh. There was also an opportunity to shop at Kildare Village Outlet Shopping and a visit to Castletown House, Ireland’s largest and earliest Palladian style house. A similar weekend is being promoted around the Punchestown Races on the weekend of November 13th to 15th.

Note for Editor

Horse Racing in Ireland attracts up to 1.5 million racegoers every year to over 300 race meetings across the country's 26 racecourses. It has long been known that a significant percentage of those attending race meetings in Ireland are from overseas but no objective data has existed to support the assumption.

To remedy this, in 2008, Fáilte Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland commissioned extensive research in this area to identify the number of overseas tourists attending race meetings in Ireland every year; where they come from; how long they stay in Ireland; and how much they spend. The research spanned 12 months from June 2008 to May 2009 with over 6,000 individual interviews being conducted at over 100 race meetings.

A detailed questionnaire was addressed to overseas visitors at race meetings and 638 interviews were completed in total. Observation studies also recorded the number of Irish attendees to provide a representational context: Over 6,000 observation records were made in total.

Three quarters of overseas visitors come from either the UK (60%) or the USA (14%). Over half attend racecourses in Dublin (14%) or the Rest of Leinster (38%). 85% are independent travellers.

Overseas racecourse visitors typically travel to Ireland in pairs or in small groups (average group size is four adults). There are rarely children in the groups.

Personal advice and internet research dominate the sources of information used both before and during trips. Over 1 in 10 use the Horse Racing Ireland website (13%) and the Discover Ireland website (14%).

Word of mouth is the critical source (61%) of information on the race meetings themselves. However, about 1 in 4 receives their information on the race meetings from a website.

Overseas racecourse visitors typically spend a second day at a race meeting during their trip and visit a racecourse about halfway into their holiday. Those who attend the most days of racing on their visits are likely to be from the USA, visit in the Spring and often attend in Munster.

The total average planned duration of the visit to Ireland is about a week and a half. However, British visitors are far more likely to be on short breaks.

About one in four overseas visitors claim attending a race meeting was the primary reason for their trip. However, half of all overseas visitors now claim they are very likely to attend horserace meetings during further trips to Ireland. Of those who didn’t visit Ireland primarily for racing, two thirds (68%) now claim they are likely to attend a race meeting in Ireland in the future. Those most likely to attend a race meeting in Ireland in the future are: British; visit in the Spring; are on short breaks; and attended course in the Rest of Leinster.

The most used accommodation type is private homes with friends/family, close to 1 in 3 overseas visitors stay in top grade hotels. These hotel users are mainly from the UK, on short breaks, visit in the Spring and Autumn, and have visited principally to attend race meetings.

Overseas visitors are very similar to Irish attendees in terms of age and gender. They have a slightly greater propensity to attend festivals.

Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism development authority, was established in 2003 to guide and promote tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy.

The tourism and hospitality industry employs up to 300,000 people and generates more than €6 billion in revenue a year.