VIENNA (Reuters) - When the roar of the crowds has faded and the bunting has been taken down, Austria expects to count a substantial economic benefit from next month’s Euro 2008 soccer championship.
Economists working for the government put the value to the economy at 321 million euros ($492.1 million), equal to about 0.15 percent of annual GDP.
In addition, there will be net spending of 263 million euros and the equivalent of 6,000 jobs created for the duration of the June 7-29 event which Austria is jointly hosting with Switzerland.
Those numbers were likely to be substantially increased to a contribution of more than 0.2 percent to Austrian GDP and 10,000 jobs in the hospitality industry alone when the government publishes revised numbers before the start of the competition, an economist who worked on them told Reuters.
The respected German institute DIW said after the soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006 that the expected short-term positive economic impact failed to materialize. The government said it added about 0.3 percent to GDP.
However, soccer fans in Germany apparently spent about 50 percent more than other tourists and Austrian officials are hoping the same jangle of cash registers will echo around the country that gave the world Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Sachertorte.
Sectors set to benefit in Austria, according to the study for the government by SportsEconAustria, are mainly construction, tourism and services.
There were lots of social benefits too, it said.
“To the extent that investment in the sporting infrastructure leads to a greater active participation in sport, there should be a net positive effect on health.”
SportsEconAustria says the championship will mean an extra 830,000 hotel nights by teams, officials and fans across the country.
There is a downside for Austrian travel operators: a major agency says flight bookings out of the country during the championship are down 20 percent on last year because people are staying at home to watch the matches.
Officials are hoping that some of the fans who come for the football will return to enjoy some of Austria’s other attractions such as skiing, architecture, history and just walking and enjoying its “Sound of Music” scenery.
“Many families come with father and son watching the games but mother visits museums,” said economist Christian Helmenstein. “Some people also stay on after.”
There will be some lasting infrastructure benefits. Already several underground railway stations have been added as part of an extension of the network to the main stadium in Vienna, where the final will be played on June 29.
The area around the stadium is being developed to include a shopping centre and high-rise office blocks, intended to create more jobs, and an artificial lake.
Some 86 food outlets -- none selling alcohol -- will open along the fan mile in Vienna’s historic city centre, with others around the stadium.
Hoping to cash in, hundreds of bars will show the games live on television, with a special Web site www.fussballbeimwirt.at/ showing fans where to find them.
The event starts a little more than a month after Austria hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. An elderly man in the small town of Amstetten west of Vienna was revealed to have kept his daughter prisoner in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children by her.
The country’s leaders have considered a campaign to repair the country’s image but already comments by readers of news Web sites show people now associate Austria with such grimness.
“The European Football Championship will most certainly boost the image of our country and create a positive sustainability effect for the years to come,” says the city government on its Web site.
But commerce rules everywhere: the country’s Chamber of the Economy, grouping businesses, has warned keen Austrian entrepreneurs that products competing with those of the UEFA official sponsors must not be sold around the stadium or the fan mile.
Editing by Clare Fallon
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