Overseas football tourism has proved to be a huge winner for the British economy, a new report published by Britain's national tourism agency VisitBritain revealed on Wednesday.
According to research by the official tourism body, football has seen increasing importance in driving inbound tourism and in boosting visitor spending, reports Xinhua.
The new report shows that overseas visitors who went to a football match spent 1.93 billion US dollars across the UK in total during their trips in 2019, up 84 per cent on the $1.022 billion spent in 2011 when the research was last conducted.
The research covered the period immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
VisitBritain said there were 1.5 million overseas visits to the UK in 2019 that included watching a live football match, up 66 per cent compared to 2011 when there were 909,000 visits.
Visitors who attended a football match also spent more and stayed longer, spending $1,252 per visit on average, 31 per cent more than the global visitor average of $959 in 2019, and staying 10 nights compared to seven.
Out of the 1.5 million overseas visitors who went to a football match during their stay, 94,000 were international business visitors, said VisitBritain.
Football also took the top spot in 2019 as the most popular live sporting event for international tourists to the UK.
Almost two-thirds of trips took place in either January to March or October to December, cementing football's importance in driving inbound tourism outside the peak travel seasons.
Overseas visitors to the North West of England, home of some of the giants of the English Premier League, were the most likely to watch a football match, almost one-in-five, followed by 1-in-14 overseas visitors to the North-East and 1-in-20 to Yorkshire.
Looking at visits to specific stadiums, Old Trafford, home of Manchester United and Liverpool's Anfield Stadium attracted the most international visits, 226,000 and 213,000 respectively.
"Our national game is a massive draw for visitors that want to come and watch top-class football from some of the best Leagues in the world. Football tourists boost local economies during the off-peak tourism season supporting restaurants, hotels and hospitality venues," said Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston.
Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain believed the research demonstrated the huge draw and increasingly valuable role of live football in attracting international visitors to Britain.
"It also cements the importance of football in driving regional tourism by encouraging visitors to explore different parts of Britain and its effectiveness in driving growth across the shoulder seasons, boosting local economies," she added.
"We will continue to harness the global interest in football as international travel reopens, helping drive back demand for travel to Britain from our long-standing partnership with the Premier League."
Richard Masters, CEO of the English Premier League said they were proud of the positive impact the League has on both national and local economies. "Seeing the competition in action is fantastic and we look forward to welcoming more international visitors to our stadiums in the future."