Otago Stadium RWC highlight

They came, they saw, and the All Blacks conquered.

But off the pitch, the 2011 Rugby World Cup was also a success, proving the country could host major global events, Sport and Recreation Minister Murray McCully said yesterday as he released the report ''The Stadium of Four Million''.

''Feedback shows the Rugby World Cup 2011 exceeded the expectations of the global rugby community, media, and sponsors.''

The report noted the tournament attracted 133,000 international visitors, far exceeding the pre-tournament estimates of between 71,000 and 85,000.

The economic impact of the tournament was estimated at $1.73 billion, with the equivalent of 29,990 jobs sustained for a year, Mr McCully said.

Dunedin hosted four matches at Forsyth Barr Stadium (renamed as Otago Stadium) during the tournament, with an average attendance of 25,000.

''The Otago Stadium was one of the region's highlights - and not just local but around the country. Almost everyone involved - including journalists and teams - lauded its atmosphere and design,'' the report said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said hosting several high-profile matches at Otago Stadium, including Italy v Ireland and England v Argentina, helped contribute to the coffers of the city and wider region.

''It is a fantastic endorsement of a facility the city has provided. It has obviously not been built for the Rugby World Cup but it is great to get that feedback and it bodes well for us being able to host significant test matches in the future.''

Otago recorded the second highest increase in electronic transactions in terms of volume by overseas cards (11%) behind Auckland (30.6%), but ahead of Canterbury (10.8%), Wellington (10.4%), and Waikato (7.9%).

While the actual travel patterns of international visitors were unknown, electronic payment card data indicated Otago was second (13%) to Auckland (36%) for overall international visitor days; ahead of Canterbury (11%) Wellington (10%) and Waikato (7%).

Both Mr McCully and Mr Christie said the report on the country's Rugby World Cup experience would help New Zealand prepare for other major events.

However the experience was mixed for some accommodation providers.

Rooms in Auckland, which hosted the semifinals and the final, were full, while other parts of the country were not as busy, ''particularly in the South Island, such as in Queenstown'', the report noted.

Across the country, retail, accommodation and restaurant activity was up 2.2% in the December quarter, which was the highest quarterly level since records began in 1986.

Some respondents to a survey reported variable results - while their businesses benefitted from increased international visitors, domestic tourism was down and the distance from game venues affected some operators.

The report notes it may have been possible that 20,000 potential international visitors in September and 25,000 visitors in October altered their New Zealand travel plans due to the RWC tournament.

Another survey cited in the report found the average spending by international rugby visitors was $3400, compared with an average of $2400 for all visitors. Australian visitors topped the list at 55,200, with the UK second with 19,100.

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