The current edition of the Australian Open will be a considerable scourge on the economic plot for the state of Victoria (Australia), which could earn up to 40% less for the hasty decision to organize the first Grand Slam of the season in a first leg of 2021 that continues to be seriously affected by the pandemic worldwide.
“If the Australian Open is not held here, it will be held somewhere else. It will take place in Japan, China or Singapore, and then the big risk will be not to get it back.”Dan Andrews, Prime Minister of the Australian state of Victoria, commented at a press conference three weeks ago.
The economic results harvested in this particular edition of the 'major aussie' will be announced once the competition ends, after the men's final this Sunday, and the numbers will be considerably far from the 574,970 hotel reservations posted in January 2020, which were associated with an average daily spend of $ 209 per person.
Tim Harcourt, professor of economics at the University of New South Wales (Australia), commented that according to his estimates the Australian Open would contribute between 30 and 40% less approximately to the state government as a consequence of the fact that 13% of all regular spectators come from abroad; while 26% arrive from other states within the country.
“Through events like the Australian Open, people are trusted to come to Melbourne and then visit iconic sites like the Great Ocean Road or Phillip Island. The government trusts that this domino effect will not take place this year, “he explained in an interview with local media 'The New Daily'.
Harcourt rightly added that television rights and sponsorships would generate insufficient revenue. in counterpart with the high risk involved in organizing a tournament of this magnitude in times of pandemic.
Time proved him right and the state government announced a strict confinement for the entire population of Victoria for five days, which coincided with the days of greatest influx traditionally in the 'Open', in which the public could not attend Melbourne Park.
The confinement was decreed as a result of the 13 positive cases linked to a contagion in a hotel, which implied one of the less serious scenarios contemplated before organizing the Australian Open with the covid crisis as a backdrop.
“The Australian Open is an institution in Melbourne. I doubt we would have lost it. It would only have been postponed if it had not been held earlier in the year.” added in reference to Andrews' statements about the possibility of losing the venue of the first 'slam' of the season.
Tennis Australia, a body that fulfills the function of the national tennis federation, was not initially going to be so affected by the delicate situation to which they faced being more immune in this section: more than half of the income generated in the 2019 edition came from television rights and sponsors who closed their contracts before the uncertainty loomed in February 2020 with the start of the health crisis.
However, the organization of the 'major' was responsible for the expenses related to the flights and the quarantines of all the players and their teams, that reached 40 million dollars.
Professor Ross Booth, academic in Sports Economics at Monash University (Australia), said before the final date was announced that the state economy would benefit the most the later the tournament will take place throughout 2021.
“There is plenty of time, there is no other overlapping event on the calendar. If we celebrate it later we will have more public, “he said.
For his part, Professor Mark Stewart, a sports economist at RMIT University (Australia), warned about the dire consequences for the state economy which would entail moving the Australian Open celebration outside of the school holidays.
“The benefit for the regional economy is when you get people to come and spend the night. If it is not celebrated during vacations, people will have problems when it comes to spending the night away from home, “he argued.
“Of course it will generate much less benefit for the Australian economy because you are doing without a large number of international tourists, “he said.
In the weeks leading up to the main competition, several preparation tournaments were held at Melbourne Park for the 'major', among them the prestigious ATP Cup which featured the participation of the first world finishers.
The match between Italian Matteo Berrettini and Frenchman Gael Monfils on the second day of the ATP Cup was attended by just over 50 spectators in a John Cain Arena that has a capacity for 10,500 people.
The low number of spectators in the week leading up to the Australian Open, marked in part by restrictions, were a clear consequence of leaving the tennis event outside of school vacation dates and not having it organized in tandem with future school break dates.
It is true that the blow that the organization received, after the confinement that prevented the public from entering from the sixth to the eleventh day of the Australian Open, was totally out of expectations due to the good situation the country was going through in relation to the pandemic.
However, lWhat happened was another of the risks they faced when deciding to carry out the championship in the first section of 2021.
South African Craig Tiley, director of the Australian Open, announced in a statement Wednesday that the public could return this Thursday. as a consequence of the end of the confinement and that it would remain at 50% of the total capacity as a security measure.
However, the percentage of the public present in the first big session of this first day without confinement, which presents the semifinals between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, is not close to the 50% marked, given that a large number of spectators had planned to arrive from other states that have closed their borders to Victoria due to the recent outbreak.