RugbyU: Overseas fans flocking to WCup - organisers

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The Independent Online

International visitor numbers at this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand look set to exceed expectations, despite the current global economic turmoil, tournament organisers said Tuesday.

Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said strong demand meant the estimated number of overseas visitors forecast to visit the country during the tournament had been lifted to 95,000 from 85,000.

"The upsurge in support from overseas fans is a strong sign of confidence in our ability to host the biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever held," he said.

Snedden said the figure compared favourably to the 66,000 international fans who travelled to Australia for the 2003 World Cup.

He said Australia was set to be the largest source of overseas visitors, with 30,000-plus crossing the Tasman Sea for the tournament, followed by Britain and Ireland (25,000), France (10,000) and the Americas (10,000).

Revenue from ticket sales stood at NZ$234 million ($192 million), Snedden said, leaving organisers upbeat about their prospects of reaching their goal of NZ$268 million.

"We have a very achievable target," he said.

Snedden said demand for tickets to the September 9-October 23 did not appear to have been affected by the economic problems that have caused volatility on currency and stock markets.

"I guess for New Zealand as a destination, what's happened with the pound and the euro and the Australian dollar has worked against us, but we haven't seen that in the numbers I've talked about today," he said.

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