The traditional Irish invasion of punters looks set to miss Cheltenham this year as the country continues to struggle with recession.
Cheltenham racecourse has even taken the decision to cut back on promoting the Festival over here, believing that no amount of marketing can encourage Irish racegoers to make the expensive this year.
Instead the course has made the decision to target the Irish living in Britain, hoping that these punters may be in a better financial situation then their fellow countrymen at home. With news that advance ticket sales are matching last year’s levels, the marketing plans appear to be working. Over 75,000 tickets have already been sold and hospitality bookings are up 8 per cent on this time last year.
“It’s been very busy since Christmas and the sales team are telling me they are taking calls from people they haven’t heard from in two or three years,” said managing director Edward Gillespie. “With nine weeks to go, we are in a good position.”
Gillespie was very aware of the reduced number of Irish likely to travel this year:
“It is even striking among non-renewals of membership. It’s clear the ability of the Irish to come has been badly hit by economic reasons. We are being realistic and not promoting the Festival as actively over there as we have done in the past. With St Patrick’s Day falling during the meeting, our emphasis now is on English-based Irish people and we will be putting packages together to attract them to the day.”