America's Cup: New Zealand made $156m loss on hosting event

5:40 pm on 20 July 2021

New Zealand made a loss of $156 million from hosting the America's Cup event in March.

Emirates Team New Zealand v Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. Race 5, Day 3 of the America's Cup presented by Prada. Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday the 13th of March 2021. © Copyright photo: Chris Cameron /

Photo: Photosport / Chris Cameron

An evaluation report released by the Crown and the Auckland Council shows that for every dollar spent, 28 cents was lost.

The loss is put down to higher than projected public investment, few international visitors, and only three of the potential 10 challengers racing.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Auckland Council cost-benefit analysis found the 38,745 people who visited Auckland during the event spent $298m, and it was the most watched America's Cup of all time.

However, it found the economic return for the event was lower than had been forecast due to Covid-19 restriction visitors, media and superyachts.

"The cost-benefit analysis (CBA) for Auckland has identified a benefit-cost ratio of 0.85. In other words, for every dollar put in Auckland got 85 cents back," it said.

"When considering financial returns only, Auckland got 72 cents back for every dollar put in."

The analysis showed Auckland lost a total of $91.6m when intangibles like social, cultural and environmental costs and benefits were factored in, and lost $145.8m from a purely financial standpoint.

That compared to a New Zealand-wide loss of $156.1m, or $292.7m on a purely financial basis with a benefit-cost ratio of 0.48, or 48 cents back for every dollar spent.

Projections before the Cup was held estimated a benefit-cost ratio for New Zealand of between 0.997 and 1.14.

The Cup got a total global audience of 941 million people and a dedicated audience of 68.2 million viewers across the world, the report said. They watched 52 hours of live broadcast in 236 territories.

Despite the cost to the host, 94 percent of attendees said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their overall experience, and 89 percent of attendees living in Auckland said it increased their pride in the city.

In 2017, MBIE estimated the America's Cup would be worth between $600 million and $1 billion to the New Zealand economy from 2018-2021, and that hosting the event would create between 4700 and 8300 jobs.

It estimated that for every $1 invested, the economy would benefit between $1 and $1.14.

MBIE forecast that over the long term (out to 2055) every $1 invested in the infrastructure would generate approximately $7.50 of economic activity.

The America's Cup was estimated to attract between 21,497 and 26,275 international tourists and 159 superyachts, and up to 175,000 domestic visitors.

The Marine Industry Association estimated it would be worth $436m to the local economy just from superyacht visits alone, which MBIE expected to number 159. Only 25 berthed here during the America's Cup.

Commenting on the $156m loss, Auckland Unlimited chief executive Nick Hill said they were expecting worse due to the lack of international visitors and superyachts.

"We were pleasantly pleased with the results. We've come through Covid - it was an amazing achievement for the event to happen at all so the result is surprisingly good," Hill said.

"If the event had not occurred the loss would have been a lot greater and that was a very real possibility."

Hill said the government and council's offer to Team New Zealand to host the event again still stood.

"We would be very keen for it to come back, we've indicated collectively what we think it would be worth and what we could pay for it to be here again."

It would not cost as much to host the regatta again because infrastructure upgrades had been completed, he said.

ACE report takes different tone

Meanwhile, America's Cup organiser's report on their own event has described it as a "highly successful global event", given the challenges of hosting the regatta during a pandemic.

The nervous wait as the race unfolds.

America's Cup fans gathered for the racing. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

America's Cup Event (ACE) today released its 110 page review, detailing the highlights and challenges behind the scenes.

It said there had been 860,000 visits to the Cup Village during the racing from December to March, and planning and running the Cup had been challenging due to restrictions because of Covid-19.

"The sudden change in circumstances had an immediate impact on planning for AC36. Aspirations and expectations from all involved in the hosting of AC36 needed to be recalibrated, as the reality of the situation sunk in and the global pandemic continued to rage throughout the world."

About 26,000 international visitors had been expected before the pandemic changed that outlook.

"Early indications are that AC36 was the most watched Americas Cup ever, surpassing the viewership of the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda in 2017."

The report shows the organisation spent $45 million, mostly from Crown funding, but also including sponsorships and TV revenue.

It spent $26m on administration, $3.7m on TV production, $2.4m on the Race Village, $1.1m on social media, $629,000 on website costs, and $7m on "challenger or record event costs" (Team NZ's event costs).

It also details the organisation's frustrations in working with the public sector, with some processes described as "cumbersome and time consuming".

ACE said it was required to attend 32 regular meetings, "most of which were unproductive and resulted in conflicting information and instructions being delivered to ACE".

"Unfortunately, due to the number of people who attended and the fact that they were led by Auckland Unlimited who was not responsible for delivering the event, they became very unproductive, and required outcomes were not able to be achieved."

The report said the regatta was the catalyst for the redevelopment of Auckland's waterfront "and work will continue in this space over the coming years so that the area can be enjoyed by future generations".

The America's Cup Challenger Series began on 15 January, and the Cup finished on 21 March.

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