Champions League: 'Make most of final's business boost'

Scarves on sale in the city of Cardiff Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Scarves on sale in the city of Cardiff

Wales and Cardiff need to maximise opportunities from the Champions League final, a business expert has urged.

Thousands of fans as well as big business will be at European club football's showpiece on Saturday night.

Prof Dylan Jones-Evans said the UK and Welsh governments should be "squeezing every hand of every business" to encourage investment.

One corporate sponsor predicted a rise in credit card transactions of 300% in Cardiff this weekend.

There are 170,000 fans travelling to Cardiff bringing an estimated spend of £45m into the city around the match between Italian and Spanish football giants Juventus and Real Madrid.

Prof Jones-Evans, an expert in entrepreneurship at the University of South Wales said it went beyond the thousands in the city itself.

"It's actually more than that because clearly this is the biggest sporting event this year, it's being broadcast to 200 million people - that's twice the size of the SuperBowl - in 200 countries.

"That's going to have an enormous impact on the profile of Cardiff internationally but more importantly Wales."

But he said it was more about the long term impact - with private jets and cruise ships bringing a different type of visitor who were potentially future inward investors.

Wales needed to "maximise" the opportunity, he said.

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Media captionProf Dylan Jones-Evans says Wales needs to make the most of the business impact of the Champions League final

There was also the potential of fans wanting to return as tourists.

"We're showing what a great city Cardiff is," said Prof Jones-Evans.

"When you think about the final itself, we have one of the world's greatest players - a Welshman - playing for Real Madrid against Juventus where probably the greatest ever player for Wales, John Charles, is still an icon in Italy.

"You couldn't make it up for showcasing Welsh football but more importantly the capital city.

"To bring people in who've probably never been before and probably would never considering coming here is a real bonus for the city."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Juventus and Real Madrid play for the cup on Saturday evening

More than 4,000 hotel rooms in central Cardiff were allocated to organisers Uefa in a block-booking negotiated more than two years ago, as part of the agreement to stage the final.

Hotel managers have therefore not experienced a typical event build-up with bookings, although the road closures and security measures mean more logistical headaches than usual.

Ben Underwood, chairman of the Cardiff Hoteliers Association, which represents 26 hotels, said the opportunity provided a huge audience for what the city had to offer.

"It should be phenomenal," he said. "But we're very aware it's the responsibility of the hotels to make sure people have a great experience and also the responsibility of Cardiff council, the Welsh Government and Visit Wales to make sure it goes smoothly and people will want to come back."

'Big business lift'

Mr Underwood said in the longer term Cardiff still had to show it could offer facilities to attract more business and convention visitors - such as a 16,000-capacity venue - and that it was not just pulling in visitors for its night-time economy either.

"The likes of the Champions League and Nato summit show how well we can do," he said.

"We need to show we're not just a destination for stag and hen parties - which have their place - but also a business and tourism destination."

Ann Cairns, president of international markets for one of the competition's sponsors Mastercard, said: "It will be fantastic for Wales to host this tournament. What people will probably see in Cardiff is a big increase in business.

"We've found in other cities who have hosted the tournament, the number of transactions of people using their cards goes up 300% - that's people buying things in shops, going to restaurants, pubs and restaurants. I think Cardiff is going to have a big business lift."

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