Figures released today by the Racecourse Association reveal that 2011 was a record year for racecourse attendance. The number of people going racing across the country rose again for the third consecutive year, with total attendances hitting a record high of 6.15 million visits, the first time that the six million mark has been reached since 2004. Average daily attendances saw a rise of 1%.
Whilst other sports have seen a fall in gate receipts in 2011, racing has maintained its appeal as an attractive day out, with the figures showing a total rise in racecourse attendance of 6.6% against 2010. Such good news will be welcomed across the industry in the light of dwindling Levy income and a drop in the amount of corporate sponsorship and hospitality that racecourses are seeing.
Carrying on much of the good promotions work that helped increase numbers in 2010, 2011 again saw racecourses putting maximum effort into varying the entertainment on offer to complement the day's racing. For example, the RCA Showcase Award winning 'Edinburgh Woollen Mill Ultimate Ladies Night' at Carlisle Racecourse saw 10,555 racegoers flocking to the Cumbria course. This represents a 25% increase on the equivalent fixture in 2010 and Carlisle's second highest ever attendance.
April saw the expansion of the Racing for Change led free racing initiative from a week to the whole month. This promotion again proved highly successful, attracting large crowds including a high number of new racegoers, to racecourses across the country.
Many of the 60 UK courses have also been actively marketing their fixtures to a broader audience and working hard to make sure that visitors have a memorable leisure experience as well as promotion of the equine and human stars of the sport. The newly formed QIPCO British Champions Series proved a tremendous hit with racegoers over the summer culminating with QIPCO British Champions Day attracting over 26,000 to Ascot in October.
Stephen Atkin, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association commented, 'I am very pleased to see racecourse attendance on the up for a third year in a row and to break the previous record is fantastic. Financially it is a very difficult time for people at the moment, so it is a vindication of the exemplary work being done on Britain's Racecourses that more and more people are enjoying a day out at the races.'