Lasting Tourism Effects of Mega-Sport Events

Visa Inc. has released a new report that shows the effects of mega-sporting events and the impact they have on tourism spending in the event host countries.

The report analyzes Visa cardholder spending patterns of three recent mega-events: 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa(TM), the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games. According to the report, events of this scale create significant increases in expenditure and give host countries a chance to shine on the global stage.

For each of the three events analyzed, there was healthy growth in Visa payment card expenditure during the event compared to the year prior:

  • 82 percent for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa(TM)
  • 93 percent for the Vancouver 2010 Olympi Winter Games
  • 15 percent for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

“These three events have been catalysts of economic recovery for the host country and nations surrounding it in terms of international tourism spending. Electronic payments play a crucial role in facilitating this sustainable tourism growth. They ease the difficulties travelers face when making purchases in other countries,” said Antonio Lucio, Visa’s chief marketing officer.

Olympic Games

One of the key factors for any Olympic host city and country is the legacy that is left behind. It is critical for countries to be in a position to leverage the global attention events like the Olympic Games can generate, as well as maximize investments made in preparation for the influx of inbound travelers.

  • In Beijing, visitors from the U.S., Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan accounted for more than half of all Visa card spend in China from Aug. 8 – 25, 2008. During that period, there were approximately 840,000 Visa transactions with an average daily spend of $10.6 million from international cardholders.[1]
  • Vancouver experienced double digit growth in the total tourism spending by inbound Visa cardholders during the months of February and March compared to the same time period in 2009. In the heart of the Games, from February 12 – 28, there were approximately 1.14 million Visa transactions, with an average daily spend of $7.2 million from international cardholders.[2]

FIFA World Cup

Daily Visa payment card expenditures made by all non-South Africans while in South Africa during the period from June 1, 2010 until July 31, 2010 were compared to similar data for the same two month period in 2009. As the FIFA World Cup(TM) itself lasted from June 11 to July 11, 2010, the data set provided comparative information for 10 days before and 20 days after the Cup. According to this data, the FIFA World Cup(TM) provided a platform for South Africa to showcase their nation to the world, up-leveling their global status and tourism levels increased throughout the year. While the FIFA World Cup(TM) played a significant role in the growth experienced in June and July, visitor arrivals were amplified all year. Spending levels by international Visa cardholders traveling to South Africa in December ($220M) and January ($200M) even rivaled the June ($222M) and July ($204M) World Cup months.

According to Burke, “What is particularly encouraging is the strong indication that in the mega-sporting events analyzed for this report, tourism-related spending increased substantially during the events and far beyond any increases that can be attributed to economic recovery only”.

For more information and to view the report it its entirety, please visit

Check out an older but still relevant AbouTourism post on Mega Events and Destination Development & Marketing.

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