Influx of AFL fans for Gather Round lands Adelaide Airport busiest four days since COVID

Influx of AFL fans for Gather Round lands Adelaide Airport busiest four days since COVID

Tom Doedee celebrates Adelaide's win over Carlton in round five, 2023. (Via AFL)

Adelaide Airport is expected to experience its busiest four-day period since pre-pandemic this weekend thanks to an influx of AFL fans making their way to South Australia for the inaugural Gather Round and the start of the school holidays.

More than 115,000 passengers will pass through Adelaide Airport this weekend to experience the four-day AFL bonanza in South Australia which will see all 18 clubs play in nine sold-out games.

Today specifically is the biggest of the event’s four days for the Adelaide Airport, with an anticipated 34,000 passengers flying into the city. An extra 35 flights into Adelaide have been added by Virgin Australia to accommodate the influx.

Nearly 200,000 tickets have now been sold across the nine matches held at three footy fields in SA: the Adelaide Oval, Norwood Oval and the Recreation Park in the Adelaide Hills.

“Kicking off our country’s first ever Gather Round last night, right here in South Australia – and we’re already kicking goals,” South Australian Minister for Tourism Zoe Bettison said.

“This is a footy weekend like no other we have experienced in our nation’s history – so it is only fitting that it’s driven hotel bookings like never before and our city’s airport is experiencing its busiest four days since before COVID. 

“With nearly 200,000 tickets sold across the nine matches – all sold out - there’s been huge demand locally and interstate, and our tourism and hospitality industries are reaping the rewards.”

Hotels are enjoying the boon too, with the latest forward booking data showing there are more hotel rooms booked over the Friday and Saturday (91 per cent and 92 per cent respectively) of Gather Round than any other weekend before.

This surpasses the 90 per cent hotel occupation rate recorded during the March 2023 long weekend when Adelaide was revelling in the atmosphere of the Fringe Festival, sold-out world music festival WOMADelaide and Ed Sheeran’s blockbuster appearance at the Adelaide Oval.

“The atmosphere in the hotel is almost palpable as the Gather Round really comes to life. We’re almost at capacity, and there’s a very strong interstate contingent coming to support their teams,” Hilton Adelaide general manager Rupert Hallam said.

“Coupled with LIV Golf Adelaide next week, it certainly is an extremely busy time for the hotels across the city.

“We are looking forward to showcasing Adelaide to our guests over the coming weeks as these two major events gather momentum.”

The news comes after Adelaide experienced a bumper ‘Mad March’ this year, with the state’s festival of comedy, arts, music and more Adelaide Fringe enjoying record-breaking numbers of ticket sales.

Organisers reported in March that 1 million tickets were sold to events during the four-week festival - the first ever festival in Australia to do so.

With 1,000,916 tickets sold in total to punters across 1,280 different shows, Adelaide Fringe generated $25.17 million in total box office value.

Adelaide Fringe also said that more than 3 million people attended the month-long event this year, triple that of tickets sold thanks to the many free events, installations, and public gathering spaces like the Garden of Unearthly Delights, Gluttony and more.

It also follows the release of new data by Tourism Research Australia earlier this month that revealed how South Australia’s tourism sector exceeded all expectations in 2022, generating a record $8.3 billion for the state’s economy.

This figure surpassed the pre-COVID high of $8.1 billion and was 12 months ahead of what was forecast by a COVID tourism impact model created by the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC).

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