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Australian Open a bigger corporate crowd-puller than the AFL, Melbourne Cup and Boxing Day Test 

Transport and hotel booking data from Flight Centre’s Corporate Traveller shows the Australian Open attracted 725% more bookings than to the Boxing Day Test in 2023

Despite AFL being our national sport, tennis has come out on top as Melbourne’s most popular sporting event among corporate travellers. New flight, ground transport and hotel booking data has revealed that Australian Open crowds will continue to grow, with forecast bookings at 21 percent on last year (2023).

The finding comes from Corporate Traveller, the flagship SME division of Flight Centre Travel Group. The company compared corporate inbound and outbound bookings in the days around the Australian Open, the AFL Grand Final, Melbourne Cup and Boxing Day Test[1].

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Australian Open wins by a landslide across local and international corporate bookings

Corporate Traveller recorded 725 percent more bookings to the 2023 Australian Open than to the 2023 Boxing Day Test, 73 percent more than to the AFL Grand Final and 56 percent more than to the Melbourne Cup. 

When it comes to international corporate bookings for the four main events, the Australian Open is also a clear winner. Corporate Traveller recorded 89 percent more international bookings for Melbourne during the Australian Open than the Melbourne Cup, 46 percent more than the AFL Grand Final and nine per cent more than the Boxing Day Test. 

AFL Grand Final and Melbourne Cup vie for second place

Corporate Traveller recorded 11 percent more domestic corporate bookings to the 2023 Melbourne Cup than to the AFL Grand Final. However, when it came to international corporate bookings, the AFL Grand Final trumped Melbourne Cup, with 30 percent more bookings.

The 2023 Grand Final between the Brisbane Lions and Collingwood drew capacity crowds of 100,024 to the MCG for the second year in a row. Media reports estimated more than 80,000 people attended Melbourne Cup 2023, up from 73,816 in 2022.  

AdobeStock By adimas

Australian Open 2024 predicted to grow in popularity as event extended 

Bookings for the 2024 Australian Open are already 21 percent higher than Corporate Traveller’s 2023 bookings. The Australian Open broke attendance records in 2023, welcoming 839,192 fans through the gates over the tournament. Day six attracted the biggest crowd, with 94,854 people flocking to Melbourne Park – the largest crowd since 2003.

Players on that day were Andy Murray, Roberto Bautista Agut, Novak Djokovic, Belinda Bencic, Aryna Sabalenka and Dan Evans. In 2024, the tournament will be extended by one day to reduce late matches.

Corporate travellers by city of origin

Among those arriving in Melbourne during the Australian Open this year, the highest proportion of bookings from a single city came from Sydney (29 percent of total bookings), followed by Brisbane (16 percent), Adelaide (9 percent), Perth (9 percent), Canberra (2 percent), and outside of Australia (14 percent). Sydney also tallied the most bookings during Melbourne’s other three big-ticket sporting events.

This year, the top international origin cities attracting corporate travellers to the Australian Open – in order of booking volumes – are Auckland, Dubai, Singapore, Los Angeles, Doha, Christchurch and Wellington. 

Australian Open Men’s Final Night, Federation Square 2019- Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Tom Walley, Corporate Traveller’s Australian-based Global Managing Director, said: “The Australian Open will run over 15 days this year (2024), and it is held during the holiday period when people are enjoying time with family and friends. It is summer too, so the warmer weather gets everyone out and about. 

“Melbourne Park may not have the same seating capacity as Melbourne’s other three main sporting events at the MCG and Flemington, but it has everything else on its side to draw the biggest crowds. It is the first Grand Slam event of the year, preceding the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

“It attracts players from all over the world, too, as opposed to the AFL Grand Final, which features Australian athletes only, or the Boxing Day Test, which included only Pakistani and Australian teams in December. 

“Many corporate travellers have booked fares well in advance to avoid holiday airfare price increases. These events are also the perfect opportunity to blend business travel with leisure.

“With Melbourne being home to several sporting events, business travellers can network and host their clients, while also offering tickets as an employee incentive.”

[1] Corporate Traveller collected flight, ground travel and hotel bookings to Melbourne (1) from 25-30 September 2023 to capture business travel to the AFL Grand Final on 30 September 2023 (2) from 2-8 November 2023 to capture business travel to Melbourne Cup on 7 November 2023 (3) from 23 December 2022-1 January 2023 to capture business travel to Boxing Day Test on 26 December 2023 (4) from 14-29 January 2023 and 12-28 January 2024 to capture business travel to Australian Open across the multi-day event.  

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