Australian Open: beyond the gates
As a group that takes people to tennis events all over the world, we have a clear understanding of what it means to the local economies when a tournament comes into town. Simply, it means a lot, though not all cities feel the impact in the same way. While New York proudly embraces its role as host to the biggest tennis event in the world, it’s not a city that bats an eye when a global event comes into town. New York is such an absorptive sponge that it simultaneously hosts NYC Fashion Week, the US Open, and countless concerts and pro sports events. Then, while you’re riding the #7 train out to Flushing Meadows, you can still run into people who will look at you and ask, “What tennis tournament?”
The Melbourne embrace
The Australian Open is a different story. It is a tale of absolute consumption and city-wide obsession for Melbourne. During those two great weeks in January, good luck finding a bar that doesn’t have a tennis-themed drink special and three screens devoted to Rod Laver Arena, MCA, and Melbourne Arena, respectively. The streets and parks fill up with tennis fans, artists, and open-air concerts, all entirely aware and in tune with the hard-court event taking place around them. Magazines and newspapers are covered in all things Aussie Open, with full sections dedicated to the play and other sections to the show and excitement that whirls around it.
By the numbers
Tennis is a game of artistry that lends itself to numbers, and tennis tourism can be approached in a similar way. Sure, it’s our passion for the game that sends us across the world and it’s the moments of big-stage brilliance that capture our hearts. However, just as we discuss tennis in terms of first-serve percentages and break points converted, tourism is a business measured by room nights and table reservations.
In 2020, the Australian Open welcomed approximately 810,000 attendees (which, at $200/ticket is a cool $162 Million in ticket revenue) and, more modestly, we brought over 400 guests to Australia. If we give some thought to the impact of GSTT guests it helps us to imagine the scale of the tournament as a whole:
- Flights from the US to Melbourne average $1,500 = $600,000
- 800 hotel nights at The Langham, at $400/night = $320,000
- Assuming a humble meal average of $60/day, for 14 days = $336,000
- Nearly all our guests leave with official souvenirs. One jumbo autograph ball, a hat, and a t-shirt totals $60 = $24,000
- Australia’s beautiful excursions aren’t free, and if we account for 200 individual excursions, averaging $1,000 = $200,000
We’ll stop here, because very quickly our 400 guests have contributed over one and a half million dollars towards an economy that isn’t their own, and if you count this writer’s penchant for drink and some fancy new shoes, it’s probably more like one million, five hundred thousand, two hundred and fifty. Further, many of our guests donated to the bushfire relief efforts of 2020.
The numbers are estimates, of course, and the point is that the importance of tennis reaches far beyond the matches on court and the organization who runs the event. Or, for that matter, those who operate tours to take you there. The impact is felt far up the Yarra Valley at the wineries and farms, across the Bass Strait in Tasmanian eco-lodges and down the street at Bond Store Café, who help you start your day with an eggs benedict and a mean cup of espresso.
The tour keeps spinning
The good news, of course, is that tennis travels constantly, leaving a trail of financial growth wherever it goes. Melbourne and the rest of Down Under gets some love in January, but then the other eleven months take us everywhere from tourism capitals like London and Paris, to small, beautiful clubs like the Houston US Men’s Clay Court Championships in River Oaks, and even to tennis frontiers like Takshent, Uzbekistan.
It’s a beautiful, global tour we all support, and we’d love to take you wherever it is you’d like to go.
This article was originally published in 2016.