We often under-estimate the impact of international rugby on our tourism and hospitality economy. We will be reminded of its importance once again this weekend when BT Murrayfield Stadium hosts a sparkling double bill.
The importance of Team Scotland doing well in the RBS 6 Nations is apparent to all the hotels, bars and restaurants in the colder, early months of the year. And throughout the year both Edinburgh and Glasgow's pro teams have attracted hundreds of thousands of rugby fans from Wales, Ireland, and Italy, helping to stimulate passenger demand on the flight routes between Dublin, Cork and Scotland.
Now the Champions Cup Final, formerly the Heineken Cup, this weekend is another chance to show how good we are at joining in the celebration. I hope suitably-kilted Scottish fans will be able to mingle with English and French rugby fans at both Murrayfield and in the special fanzone in George Street. Let's make them feel welcome!
Murrayfield’s capacity is 67,000 and the rugby double-header includes Saracens versus Clermont Auvergne in the Champions Cup Final on Saturday with Gloucester verses Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup on Friday evening.
My colleagues at VisitScotland’s EventScotland team, have been working with Scottish Rugby and have been rolling their sleeves up to ensure that there is plenty of extra off-field activities for the fans. The city will be well prepared - and well-stocked with beer - for the English and the French invasion and who will make a lot of noise as the season comes to a fitting climax.
The European finals are one of the great club rugby weekends and Edinburgh is the perfect stage for the event. Events play a significant role is Scotland’s visitor economy
Last year’s finals in Lyon generated a direct economic impact of more than €15 million and a total economic impact of over €20 million, placing the finals in the comparative context of an NFL International Series match in London or an RBS 6 Nations test match.
The matches will be broadcast to 4.1 million viewers in 95 countries which all adds to Edinburgh’s consistent promotion as an attractive destination.
Analysis of Lyon showed that over 54,000 non-local supporters were in the city across the two finals, on top of 11,900 other attendees, requiring more than 40,500 bed-night’s accommodation and millions of Euros (an average of €165 / Champions Cup spectator) in additional spend on food and beverage, groceries, travel, shopping and leisure.
Saracens are in their second successive Champions Cup final. The game kicks off at 5pm. Scottish rugby fans will be familiar with the names of Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell with Scottish interest in Kelly Brown, Sean Maitland and Jim Hamilton. Clermont Auvergne, who play in dark blue and yellow, pipped Leinster to win their place in the final.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, who has been selected to join the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in June, will play his final game for Gloucester against Stade Francais on Friday - kick-off 8pm - before joining Clermont next season.
From a neutral's point of view, it’s going to be a feast of great sunshine rugby in the capital.
For more information, visit our Rugby in Scotland pages on visitscotland.com