The number of visitors to the UK from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa rose dramatically last Autumn thanks to the success of the Rugby World Cup, which brought an extra £18m into the economy of Leeds.
The tournament held in September and October last year at venues around England has been hailed as the most economically successful ever, generating £2.3bn overall in expenditure.
Now figures released by VisitBritain show double-digit growth in the number of visits from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the last three months of 2015.
The number of visits from New Zealand to the UK increased by 52 per cent to more than 40,000, with New Zealanders spending more than £63m during this period, more than twice as much as in 2014.
Visits and spend from Australia both increased about 20 per cent to 219,000 and £254m respectively, compared with the same period in 2014. And visits from South Africa were up 30 per cent to 58,000, with spend up six per cent to £77m.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “Britain shone in the global spotlight as the host of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and it’s great to see the huge growth in visits and spend from some of the world’s top rugby-watching nations including Australia, our fourth most valuable market.
“Almost half a million international visitors attended matches and events across 11 host cities throughout the seven week tournament which gave these areas fantastic global exposure, introducing new places to many overseas visitors.”
According to the national tourism agency, large numbers of Southern Hemisphere rugby fans visited Yorkshire during this period.
There were 14,363 visits from Australia and New Zealand to Yorkshire during October to December, with 80 per cent of Kiwis and 50 per cent of Australians spending at least 15 nights in the region.
There were 1,350 visits from South Africa to Yorkshire, with around 40 per cent spending at least two weeks there.
Earlier this week, a report by professional services firm EY revealed that the tournament generated £2.3 billion in output and added £1.1 billion to the UK GDP.
With 2.47 million tickets sold, it was the fifth largest single-sport event ever held.
A section of the report covering Leeds said: “Both games hosted at Elland Road sold-out, offering an exciting spectacle on each occasion.
“Excitement of the event was displayed through the buzz of people taking photographs and watching the teams train at every opportunity.
“The legacy should boost the profile of the city’s Rugby Union brand – often dwarfed by Rugby League in recent years throughout the rugby-mad county.”
A total of 67,000 tickets were sold for the two matches in the city, more than half of which went to domestic visitors and 31 per cent to international visitors. Seventeen per cent were taken by local fans. The match between Italy and Canada saw 33,120 fans crammed into the stadium, and a total of 33,521 attended the Scotland vs USA match.
The total expenditure, or output, in the city relating to the World Cup was £37m, and there was £18m of gross value added, meaning the benefit to the city’s economy.
There was a total of £18.6m in tourism spent, this was broken down as £4.8m on food and drink, £4.1m on accommodation, £1.9m on shopping, £2.3m on travel and £5.5m on activities and entertainment.
The total was more than the amount spent in fellow host venues Exeter, Leicester and Gloucester, but less than in Newcastle, London and Manchester.