Horseracing fans visiting from Ireland spent €22.3 million (stg£19.23 million) at The Festival in 2016 spread across travel, accommodation, tickets and entertainment, according to an Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) carried out by the University of Gloucestershire on behalf of Cheltenham Racecourse.
Fans based in Ireland bought 57,375 tickets, or the equivalent of 30% of tickets sold at the prestigious annual event. On average, 14,343 visitors from Ireland attended each day of the four-day Festival. These figures do not include complimentary tickets, hospitality bookings, owners and trainers badges or tickets purchased by further numbers of Irish patrons living in the UK and abroad who also attend The Festival.
The study, which is believed to be the first of its kind, sought to measure the direct economic benefits and participation of attendees who travelled from Ireland to The Festival. The analysis was compiled from 810 completed questionnaires and supplemented by data from Cheltenham Racecourse which showed that there were ticket sales to 12,750 individuals based in Ireland who purchased an average of 4.5 tickets each.
In addition, statistical analysis of ticket booking data has shown that over the past six years, since 2010, the number of Irish ticket bookers at The Festival has increased by 22%.
Commenting, Ian Renton, Regional Director of the South West region of The Jockey Club, said:
"The Festival is one the biggest and most successful sporting occasions of the year involving Britain and Ireland. Over the years, it has become synonymous with Ireland through the participation of its great horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and staff.
"This is the first time we have studied the economic impact of Ireland's participation and the results demonstrate the very significant ongoing role played by Irish fans to the success of The Festival. Irish fans make up close to one-third of our attendance over the week, helping to create a truly unique atmosphere and experience for all racegoers.
"Our mutual love affair with The Festival, of course, involves so much more than statistics. Our shared love and passion for our sport creates an enduring relationship and long may that continue. We look forward greatly to hosting our Irish racegoers once again in a few weeks' time for the 2017 renewal."
Commenting, Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said:
"When Ian was appointed at Cheltenham, I told him he now had one of the most important jobs in Irish racing! We have been aware for some time of the value of the racing and breeding industries to the Irish economy which is estimated at over €1.1 billion per annum, so it is fascinating to now see the value of the Irish impact on Cheltenham.
"Ireland has long had a love affair with Cheltenham because they put on a wonderful festival where we see the best National Hunt horses in the world taking each other on.
"The importance of Cheltenham to Ireland goes beyond just the punters and racegoers as winning there is of vital importance to owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys and can be the highlight of a career, or the making of a horse's pedigree.
"Cheltenham has often been described as the Olympic Games of Jump racing and we are all counting the days to 14th March."
In response to the questionnaire, attendees spent an estimated €22.3 million (stg£19.23 million) over the course of the week. The highest spend was on entertainment (betting etc) €5.23 million (£4.5 million), followed by food and drink €4.5 million (£3.87 million), accommodation €4.1 million (£3.54 million) and entry fees €2.6 million (£2.24 million).
Average spends per attendee included: entertainment €556 (£479), tour package €508 (£437), accommodation €419 (£361), and food and drink €374 (£322).
In terms of the relationship between Cheltenham and Irish horsemen (trainers, owners and jockeys), the number of Irish runners has increased significantly over the past two decades.
With the numbers of winners seeing a similar pattern. The BetBright Prestbury Cup, the trophy awards to the UK or Ireland depending on who has the most winners over the four days, was won by Ireland for the second time in 2016, with 15 winners to Britain's 13.
Note on Economic Impact Analysis
The Economic Impact Analysis study was conducted by The Centre for Contemporary Accounting Research at the University of Gloucestershire.
The research team sought to estimate the direct economic impacts of attendees who travelled from Ireland for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. A total of 12,750 individuals based in Ireland purchased an average of 4.5 tickets each.
The study bases its results on 810 completed questionnaire responses from individuals who attended the Festival from Ireland. A total of 540 of respondents provided individual expenditure under various headings in the tables provided. A portion of the expenditures were quoted in Euros and these were translated into Sterling at an exchange rate of £0.86 per €1.
It is assumed that the random sample employed is representative of the Irish-based fans.