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Will Spring Carnival and Footy crowds boost Melbourne’s tourism industry?

June 30, 2020 Sports No Comments Email Email

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on many Australian industries, none more so than the travel and tourism sector. A quick glance at the business news surrounding Qantas and staffing can tell you that.

The AFL Grand Final on the last Saturday in September and the Melbourne Cup Carnival through October and November traditionally signals boom time when it comes to flights into Melbourne and hotel bookings in the city.

With so much help needed for businesses across a whole range of diverse sectors, the Spring Carnival and AFL Grand Final would be a welcome boost after months of lost revenue during the pandemic.

But any such boost hinges on one important aspect: will crowds be permitted back in stadiums by the spring? Or will crowds be allowed to attend the feature race meetings with around 90,000 normally present at Flemington for Melbourne Cup day on the first Tuesday in November.

It would be boom time for hotels, airlines, trains, Ubers and even Air BnB bookings if things do return to the old normal by then and the MCG is packed with footy fans, and Caulfield, Moonee Valley and Flemington sold out to racegoers.

The AFL Grand Final won’t happen until late October this year with October 24 pencilled in due to the delay in the season while things were postponed. That is the same day that the Cox Plate – one of the three jewels in the Melbourne racing calendar along with the Caulfield Cup (October 17) and Melbourne Cup (November 3) – takes place at Moonee Valley.

Imagine just what Melbourne could be like on that Saturday with the Cox Plate in the afternoon followed by the first-ever evening Grand Final start? Demand for flights, hotels and accommodation, not to mention tickets, would be through the roof.

It would be just the boost needed after the troubled times of the last few months. But it all hinges on one important thing: large crowds being allowed back into footy stadiums on live on track for race meetings too.

The build up to significant footy crowds returning started when a crowd of 2,000 fans attended Port Adelaide vs Adelaide Crows Showdown at the Adelaide Oval. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has since given the go ahead for crowds of around 10,000 to return to stadiums under 40,000 capacity from July.

Separately, larger venues like the MCG and Marvel Stadium will learn of greater numbers of spectators permitted to attend games when health and safety officers decide just how many social distancing protocols will permit.

It all bodes well for larger crowds by Grand Final time, but will it be a packed MCG witnessing the crowning of the 2020 premiers?

The same applies for racing. Just how many racegoers will be cheering home the 2020 Melbourne Cup champion? Racing Victoria’s ‘The Returns to Crowds’ working group is formulating plans for how and when racegoers can become a part of racedays again. Owners are now permitted to attend to watch their horses, but with strict protocols to adhere to.

Members could be back in the grandstands in some capacity in July, according to Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson, but a fully-fledged crowd remains firmly in the distance. And things remain up in the air regarding the Spring Carnival.

Time will tell whether the AFL Grand Final and Spring Carnival will be witnessed by the usual capacity crowds. Hotel owners, the airlines and train companies and small businesses that benefit from the trade of fans and racegoers will have their fingers crossed for a boost in trade they so badly need.

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