Cup Carnival Officially Australia’s Biggest Economic Event

3 May 2024

There may be concerns over the long-term future of horse racing in the UK and Ireland, but it appears there are no such problems in Australia, after the 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival was confirmed to have delivered a new gross economic record.

Whilst many of the headlines surrounding this year’s Cheltenham Festival revolved around falls in attendance and extortionate hotel prices, the total return to the state of Victoria was $468.3 million, making the Melbourne Cup Carnival Australia’s largest economic event.

The Victoria Racing Club are naturally delighted, which shows that, despite some dissenting voices, the Melbourne Cup and the surrounding carnival remain incredibly important to the country.

The Carnival in 2023 moved the total economic contribution by Victorian events in the last ten years to above $3.7 billion.

The benefits of such racing carnivals positively affect a wide range of sectors, most notably the retail industry, entertainment, accommodation and hospitality.

A number of different categories recorded increases on the back of the Melbourne Cup. Accommodation spend went up to more than $43 million, a rise of 22%, with another $32m spend on food and drinks which is up more than 13%.

Melbourne Cup week brings lots of visitors to the state. The Carnival has been recorded as being the direct reason for attracting some 67,555 people to Victoria. That’s a rise of 10.9% versus 2022.

Over half a million people, interstate and international, have arrived into the state because of this race and its carnival.

As well as the direct benefit to Victoria, Cup Day is wider reaching. More than 50% of all adults in Australia watch or listen to the Melbourne Cup.

Market research company IER, has found that the economic benefit in terms of direct spend across Australia has now topped $605.7 million on Melbourne Cup Day. That figure may even be broken in 2024.

Whilst in football, or in major one-off events such as the Superbowl, most of the revenue generated is TV and sponsorship-based, for horse racing, getting people through the gates remains crucial. The record financial activity generated by the 2023 Melbourne Cup was backed up hugely by on-course activity.

Over 262,000 entered Flemington Racecourse during Cup week last year, a rise of more than 7%.

The long-term future of the sport also looks rosy in Australia, with research suggesting more 18–29-year-olds visited the Carnival, while around one third of first-timers coming to the course are from the same age group.

It’s clear the sport is very much alive and well in Australia, with the Melbourne Cup leading the way. Whether the UK and Ireland will take heart from the findings, or indeed look to their Australian counterparts for ideas, remains to be seen.

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