Barmy tourists heat up economy

They're loud, they like a lager, they're (usually) winners and they're over here.

England's big band of noisy cricket fans known as the Barmy Army has landed on Australian shores.

The rowdy fans, famous for their trumpeting, chanting and sledging of the Aussie cricketers, will give tourism around the nation a major boost.

Hotel operators, pub owners and tour companies are wringing their hands at the prospect of more than than 50,000 English fans, including at least 15,000 Barmy Army members, in Australia for the summer of cricket which started with the first Test match at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday.

On conservative estimates, the fans will provide a total economic benefit to Australia of more than $300 million.

That's double the $150 million from 30,000 overseas fans credited to the Lions rugby tour earlier this year.

Capital city hotels are already citing a whopping 95 per cent to 98 per cent occupancy rate during Test matches.

Cricket Australia reports that ticket sales have also been made to fans in New Zealand, Dubai, Canada and Japan.

In the most recent nationwide Ashes study in 2006-2007, the Test series and one-day matches contributed $317 million in direct expenditure, including $88 million in NSW alone.


Dean Brostek, a sports marketing analyst with Repucom, said big events like the Ashes, the Lions rugby tour, the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and the Australian Tennis Open brought many benefits.

"They bring tens of thousands of people into the country who spend at restaurants, pubs, accommodation and attractions," he said.

"But apart from the significant economic value, they bring vibrancy to cities. The cities hosting these events come alive, so there is a real community benefit.

"The cities can also use the events strategically. The Ashes will obviously be shown back in England and the cities can provide imagery that will encourage future visitation."The chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Ken Morrison, said visitor numbers from Britain had been affected by weak economic conditions over recent years.

"But we are now seeing signs of a recovery. The Ashes will act as a catalyst for additional visitors from the UK, giving them an extra reason to plan a trip Down Under," he said. "Many will attend more than one Test as well, which will spread their spending around the country.

"Plus, England goes into the series as the favourite, so that should provide an additional incentive for their fans to come to Australia."

Paul Burnham, co-founder of the Barmy Army website which provides information and a travel service to English fans, said most supporters travelled over for the Melbourne and Sydney Test matches because they coincide with the Christmas holidays.

Australia's largest hotel group, Accor, said the international fans stay for at least five days in each of the cities and that spending is significant.

"There is no bigger Test match each year than the Melbourne Boxing Day Test and there is no bigger rival than England," Accor Pacific chief operating officer Simon Mc Grath said.

"The Ashes always brings stronger demand than other Test matches and Melbourne is forecast to be absolutely full over this period with demand pushing out to our hotels in St Kilda and Glen Waverley.

"Our Sydney CBD hotels are already experiencing record demand for stays over the Ashes period with some hotels are expecting to completely fill over key game days.

"Adelaide demand is equally strong with guests also booking tours around the state – demand into Barossa both pre and post the Test match have spiked, indicating travelling fans are looking to experience one of the best wine regions in the country."

One out of the crowd

Englishman Angus Sutton is here with the Barmy Army for the Ashes. He will go to matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney during a four-month holiday in Australia that also includes extensive travelling to favourite backpacker destinations such as Cairns and Mission Beach.

The English fans are here to cheer their team, but they are also expected to give tourism a considerable boost.

Name Angus Sutton.
Age 18.
From Sussex.
Occupation Student. He has deferred a university course in media broadcasting so he can follow the cricket and travel.

How long in Australia Four months. He is also going on to New Zealand for four months.

First time in Australia Yes.

How many Test matches Three. Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Other sports followed Football (Manchester United), rugby and tennis. "But I've never travelled before to watch sport."

Travelling alone or in a group? With one other school friend and the Barmy Army.

Where he is staying Mainly youth hostels, but also some hotels used by the Barmy Army.

What does he do after the cricket each day? Adjourn to the Barmy Army HQ. In Brisbane, it is the Pig 'N' Whistle. "We go in for a couple of pints and talk about the day's match before going on our own way."

Where travelling in Australia "I'll be going up north to Cairns on a Greyhound bus and will be stopping at places like Rockhampton, Mission Beach and Fraser Island."

How much he will spend in Australia He has $5000. "I sold Christmas trees in my local village for two years to save up the money, and also worked in the pro shop at a golf club. I may get bar work in Sydney and in New Zealand I have work lined up on a sheep farm."

First impression of Aussies "Yeah, they are all right."

Favourite Aussie cricketer to sledge David Warner.

Favourite English cricketer Kevin Pietersen. "His 2005 Ashes innings when he got 158 at The Oval was pretty special."

Prediction for series "England will win but there could be a couple of draws. I'm thinking 3-1."