NZ Inc’s Big Test

As CEO of Rugby New Zealand 2011 Limited, Snedden reports to two stakeholders – the New Zealand Rugby Union and the New Zealand Government. They are joint venture partners in the company whose job is to deliver the tournament and sell tickets – it’s only source of revenue.

But success won’t be measured solely by the number of tickets sold. It will be all about our country, our culture and our people and how good we are at hosting unprecedented numbers of overseas visitors. Based on ticket sales to date, Snedden says visitor numbers are likely to be at or above the top end of projections, with at least 85,000 expected.

Revenue so far generated from ticket sales is close to $170 million. To put that in perspective, the biggest grossing sporting event in New Zealand previously was the 11-match 2005 Lions Tour which pulled in $24 million from ticket sales and an estimated 20,000 international visitors.

There will also be somewhere between 1000 and 2000 journalists coming to New Zealand for the cup and with lot of time between games, they won’t just be reporting on the matches. “They are going to be looking at our country and at us and then reporting back to the rest of the world about what they see,” says Snedden. “That’s fantastic opportunity, but huge risk if we don’t get it right.”

Snedden says decision was made early on to spread the tournament right around New Zealand and include number of provincial venues. He says had the choice of venues been made solely on the best financial return then it would have been restricted to larger venues in bigger centres, as was the case with the Soccer World Cup in South Africa last year.

“Underlying the approach we’ve taken was us saying that if we are really going to make this Rugby World Cup something special, it’s not going to be because we can compete with the grandeur of cities like Paris or Sydney which have been involved in the last two world cups – we’re just not that big.

“Where we can really compete is with our people, with their friendliness and the welcome we give to visitors, and the fact that most of us love rugby, or have some interest in it. That is very special in the rugby world. So the key decision making right through this project has been about including as many towns and cities around New Zealand and getting as many people involved as possible.”

In addition to the 12 cities where the venues are being held there will another 10 towns that will be involved in hosting the teams. “We also came up with the idea of national festival and said to each of these communities that instead of just hosting your part of the rugby tournament, why don’t you use your time in the spotlight to actually create something that will show that will showcase your area in the best way you possibly can.”

The Government is coordinating what it has tagged The REAL New Zealand Festival and is promising the biggest nationwide festival the country has ever seen in conjunction with Rugby World Cup 2011. “The festival will showcase our arts, food and wine, heritage, culture and business achievements in spectacular fusion of concerts, experiences and exhibitions, street markets and parades,” proclaims the website (www.nz2011.govt.nz) established to promote the festival. Business promotion is an important part of the initiative and NZ 2011 Business Club has been set up to facilitate contact between Kiwi business hosts and visitors with corporate connections.

This creation of nationwide festival has never been done around Rugby World Cup, says Snedden, and is likely to involve more than 1000 events. However, we need to go further, he declares, if we want to make the event truly outstanding and the best tournament ever. “I think ultimately it’s going to be about the hosting experience. I think this is the thing that we can do

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