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Is Poland ready to host EURO 2012?

Review of the tourism infrastructure in the hosting cities.

 

Sport tourism events are the phenomenon of the today’s world attracting millions of spectators, and billions of Euros. Equally blue and white collars gather for 3 weeks in front of TV screens to watch the performance of their national teams. Moreover thousands of devoted fans decide to go and see life the championship matches. Hosting of such sporting events is a great occasion to present the new image of the country, attract new investments and tourists, but also to build and modernize its infrastructure which is the crucial part of preparation process.

When we look at Portugal that organized EURO 2004 we can clearly see how this country profited from this sporting event. About 500.000 guests visited Portugal during 3 weeks of championships. 42 mln people visited www.euro2004.com. 2500 direct flights were exclusively associated with this event corresponding to 170.000 passengers. 443.940 additional nights were spent in the Portuguese hotels by non residents (increase by 20% comparing to 2003). And what’s most important Portugal gained from Euro 2004 800 million EUR.

Poland and Ukraine were honored to host the UEFA EURO in June 2012. Five Polish cities will be involved with the championship, but the event will be the unique opportunity for the whole country to present its business and tourism potential and to improve its image that can’t be counted just in financial terms. We want to show the modernized and competitive face of Poland adjusted to XXI world.

It seems that similarly like in Portugal even 500.000 visitors can come to our country during the three weeks of championship. Apart from the players, UEFA staff, VIPs, there will be the thousands of spectators staying over 1 night in the city as well as the one that will come during the day and not necessarily will stay in the destination. There will be fans that will follow the certain teams or the one that will be willing to explore the visited cities and regions. As there are  5 years to the event we must ask if Poland is ready to host this event and what should we improve? Are there the sport, hotel and tourism facilities that will satisfy the demand of European spectators and accommodate thousands of potential guests? Let’s go briefly through the Polish host cities and review the status of the facilities.

Warsaw as the capital of Poland was selected to host most probably the opening match as well as the group matches, quarter-final and semi-final. The city has the best hotel infrastructure in the whole country. There are 5000 rooms in five and four star properties and additionally around 10.000 rooms of all different categories of venues. Around 3000 additional rooms is planned to be build, mainly in the lower hotel categories. In the city surrounding different kind of facilities (youth hostels, student dormitories, camping fields, tourist centers, private lodgings and other night lodgings) offer approximately 23.000 roomsbeds. It seems that it still won’t be enough as the city should be able to accommodate even 70.000 spectators for the opening match. However we must remember that some of them will be Poles staying with their families and part of them will come just for the game and leave the city later.

Warsaw still doesn’t have the proper stadium to host the opening play or closing game (the final decision to be made in 2008). The Government agreed with the City Hall allied to refurbish the National Stadium that should be finished by 2010. There are private projects already prepared for the stadium, so what we need is the political will and courage to start implementation of them with private investors on the PPP basis. At this stage we must also think how the venues will be used after 3 weeks of Games. The solution for all cities, and definitely for Warsaw is building within the sporting venue a state of the art congress centre which will provide the year long business and profits.

One of the other host cities is Gdansk – the biggest economic and cultural centre of the Polish coastal area is supposed to host group matches and quarter-final which can attract around 40.000 spectators. Gdansk offers nowadays about 3000 rooms and plan to have additional 3500 high quality rooms. The whole Pomerania region offers already 90.000 rooms beds of different standard so there shouldn’t be the problem to meet the UEFA criteria. The city plans to build brand new Baltic Arena that would fit the expected number of guests.

Poznan – the capital of Wielkopolska region will also host the group matches. The city can offer already about 4000 rooms, however the city still doesn’t have high standard venues. By 2012 Poznan will have additional 6000 rooms (the major international hotel chains are interested in investing in the city). In the nearby towns the spectators will find additional 22.000 roomssleeping places. It’s still not enough, however bearing in mind the location, we assume that many German guests will come just for the match and return back home that night. Poznan has started already the construction of the Municipal Stadium that will seat about 42.000 of spectators.

One of the group matches will be organised also in Wroclaw. The city still doesn’t have enough four and five star hotels, however at this stage can offer around 4000 rooms. 2000 new rooms will be added by 2012. The nearby hotels and other accommodation venues offers 17.000 roomsbeds. We must remember that many German and Czech football fans will come back home after the game, so it seems that Wroclaw will manage to provide enough rooms for the 40.000 visitors.
The city has already the Olympic stadium which now will be refurbished to host the expected number of spectators.

Chorzow with the Silesian Stadium – the largest in Poland, commonly considered to be the national stadium, is still the reserve city for hosting the group match. The city can offer approximately 2500 rooms, however in the whole Silesia region the guests will find 35.000 rooms. Krakow – the cultural capital of Poland is also the reserve city for the group match. Hotel infrastructure in Krakow is of high standard but additional venues are needed  – the city offers about 7000 rooms, and has a plan to add 3000 new ones. In the surrounding area of the city the guests will find around 20.000 rooms sleeping places in different accommodation venues.

As we see from this short overview Polish cities have quite well developed hotel infrastructure and ambitious investment plans to accommodate the thousands of football fans. About 40 new hotels need to be built and the existing venues must refurbish their interiors. Unfortunately there are still many problems with the stadiums as none of them is ready to host the matches. The city authorities must remember that according to UEFA requirements the stadiums must be ready for use  already in 2010. As there is no time to loose, we strongly encourage the state and city officials to use the public – private procedures to complete all planned investments.

 In terms of tourism, all cities must try to encourage the guests to stay not only for 1 day play, but for additional nights. Portugal created for EURO 2004 a slogan "The post-match time is the best part of the match” and they actually managed to keep the visitors for about half week longer than planned. Such extended stays will bring benefits not only to the host cities, but also to the regions. However we must have first the real tourism attractions, F&B facilities of a high standard and the tour operators ready and capable to manage this additional traffic. There are 5 years to prepare for this 3 weeks of intensive tourism.

The best example of using the ‘halo effect’ of the sports events for the local economy is Barcelona. After the 1992 Olympics in this city, Barcelona enjoyed annual tourism revenues amounting to between 180 and 360 million Euros over the following six years. As we are optimists, we really believe that the “Barcelona effect” will repeat itself in Poland. Hopefully EURO 2012 will bring us the similar long term profits, Warsaw will become the Barcelona of CEE and the whole country will use properly the investment in its infrastructure and in the country’s image to benefit from ‘EURO 2012 kick’.

written by: Alex Kloszewski WDA President, Edyta Musielak Conference sales Manager

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