What will be the legacy of ‘best ever’ Eurovision?

Liverpool has delivered what was said to have been the ‘best Eurovision ever’ but will the immediate £40m boost for the city centre economy be followed by longer term benefits? Tony McDonough reports

Eurovision 2023
Eurovision 2023 was held at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. Picture by Chloe Hashemi/EBU


An estimated extra 100,000 people visited Liverpool in the run up the Eurovision song contest and they will have been left in no doubt that Liverpool can put on a show.

On Friday, May 5, Liverpool City Council opened its Eurovision Village and big stage at the Pier Head, kicking off the biggest party the city has seen since it was European Capital of Culture in 2008.

A few hundred yards away the M&S Bank Arena began hosting the main events with the Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals culminating in the spectacular final night on Saturday. Winner was Sweden’s Loreen, who triumphed for the second time.

It was only in early October that the city learned it was to host this year’s Eurovision. Last year’s winner Ukraine was meant to host the contest but the invasion by Russia made that impossible.

Liverpool beat Glasgow in the final two and what followed was an immense effort, led by Claire McColgan at Culture Liverpool, to prepare the city for the festival that would attract visitors from across the world and be seen by 160m TV viewers worldwide.

Today, people may be nursing the mother of all hangovers but the people of Liverpool can look upon the last nine days with a huge sense of pride.

They have collectively delivered what is already being regarded as the best Eurovision in the decades-long history of the contest and one that will live long in the memory.

And for those who view that claim with scepticism listen to the words of Dr Irving Wolther. Known as ‘Dr Eurovision’. The German academic was the first to complete a doctoral thesis on ‘Eurovision studies’ and has been attended the event for 30 years.

He said: “I can honestly say that this is probably the best Eurovision I have attended… I arrived here two weeks ago and I have never seen a host city embracing the contest like this. We know the Scandinavians are mad about Eurovision but this even tops that.”

And if you think the memories fade quickly and the long-term impact is negligible then consider Dr Wolther’s recollections of the last time the UK hosted the contest – Birmingham in 1998.

“We were not made to feel welcome in Birmingham,” he explained. “The whole attitude was about making fun of the event and the artists — in the press and on television.”


Eurovision 2023
Loreen, Swedish winner of Eurovision 2023 held in Liverpool. Picture by Corinne Cumming/EBU
Eurovision 2023
Liverpool singer Sonia performed at Eurovison 2023. Picture by Picture by Corinne Cumming/EBU
Eurovision 2023
BBC’s Graham Norton, presenter of Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool. Picture by Corinne Cumming/EBU


What has been particularly heartening about this year’s event is how hard Liverpool has worked to honour the people of Ukraine and offer recognition of the fact the country is right now fighting to retain its very existence.

While in Liverpool in the last few days, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, paid tribute to the city and stated the efforts of the past two weeks will not be forgotten by millions of Ukrainians who have been watching at home.

He said: “Seeing so many people coming with Ukrainian flags. People are not putting them there because they’re being told to by a mayor or prime minister, but because it’s genuine eagerness to support and show support.

“People in Ukraine will see it and be happy it’s done in such a way that it feels like it’s back in Ukraine.

“They will need to get it back and next time the UK wins, hand over the celebration to us and we’ll have the next one in Ukraine and invite everyone.”

Liverpool City Council committed £2m to Eurovision, a figure matched by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. As host broadcaster, the BBC footed most of the estimated £30m bill along with all the other participating countries.

During a severe cost-of-living crisis some did question the wisdom of spending £4m of public money on what was basically a big party. Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram had little doubt that it would be money well invested in what could be described as ‘soft power’.

He said: “The chance to host a global spectacle such as the Eurovision Song Contest is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often – especially for a city in the UK – that’s why so many cities bid for the accolade.

“The £2m that the Combined Authority is contributing towards the staging of Eurovision is just a fraction of the economic return we expect to see from the event. But the intangible contribution of broadcasting our brand to an international audience could be invaluable.”

Cllr Harry Doyle, the city council’s cabinet member for culture, also strongly believes Eurovision represents great value for money. He added: “Already, that £2m has gone such a long way, that’s before we’ve even talked about the economic impacts.

“The city is just rammed with the moment, everyone’s buzzing – the bars, the restaurants, hotels, all our small independent businesses. They’re all benefitting right now and that echoing impact will be measured – it’s huge.”

In late April NatWest published research, based on typical spending data from Visit Britain, forecasting the 100,000 extra visitors coming to the city for Eurovision would spend around £40m in bars, hotels, restaurants and shops.

But what will the legacy of Eurovision be in the coming months and years? Will the ‘global shop window’ theory prove to be true and see Liverpool yield extra visitors and investment?

Now the contest is over four separate studies will be undertaken to assess the economic, social, cultural and wellbeing impact of Eurovision on Liverpool city region

Steve Rotheram and the Combined Authority, working in partnership with Liverpool City Council, DCMS and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, have commissioned AMION Consulting to undertake the economic assessment.

Earlier this year Liverpool BID Company, which represents more than 1,000 businesses in the city centre, launched its first Accommodation BID, covering the city’s hotel and accommodation sector.

It will invest £4m over the next four years to help attract more major events to the city and the wider city region. Eurovision may be over but the visitor economy bandwagon rolls on. This summer Royal Liverpool in Hoylake will host the Open Golf championship.

Marcus Magee, long-time general manager of the Liverpool Hilton hotel and chair of the Accommodation BID and Liverpool Hospitality, believes Eurovision will have helped sell Liverpool’s ability to cater for tens of thousands of visitors.

He explained: “What we know is that conferences and major cultural and sporting events convert visitors to hotel stays and spend.

“It’s a critical ingredient in our visitor economy. Instead of a tourist tax, which we believe will deter visitors, instead as a sector, we saw the value in investing into a business strategy that allows us to be part of those campaigns and that approach to attracting events.


Eurovision Village at the Pier Head on Liverpool waterfront in May 2023. Picture by Tony McDonough
Visitors to Eurovision in Liverpool city centre. Picture by Tony McDonough
People came from all over the world Liverpool for Eurovision. Picture by Tony McDonough


“Eurovision reaches 161m viewers. There are 75m unique viewers. The advertising value of this is (estimated to be) €702m. The importance of being able to showcase Liverpool and its offer to this audience is huge.”

Prior to COVID, Liverpool city region’s visitor economy was worth £5bn a year, £3.35bn in Liverpool alone. This is equivalent to Merseyside’s powerhouse maritime and supports tens of thousands of jobs.

Capital of Culture in 2008 helped put Liverpool onto the next level and arguably, the opening of the ACC Liverpool events and conference complex and the £1bn Liverpool ONE retail and leisure development in the same year, were even more critical.

A year previously Liverpool also launched its dedicated cruise liner terminal which today brings in more than 100 vessels a year and tens of millions of pounds. However, plans for a new terminal have stalled and the city council is seeking a private partner to take forward the £88m scheme.

Liverpool BID Company projects its £4m investment will add more than £10m in GVA value each year in the next few years with the final year generating £16.5m. It could ask for a better springboard than Eurovision.

In 2022, Eurovision was held in the Italian city of Turin. It attracted 55,000 extra visitors spending around €11m. Out of the 55,000 that came to Turin, only 28.3% did not stay overnight.

Those staying in a hotel accounted for €4.4m worth of revenue and €6m worth of revenue generated from people staying overnight in non-hotel accommodation.

Dario Gallina Torino Chamber of Commerce president, warned Liverpool that it can’t just sit back and expect the legacy to deliver itself.

He said: “High returns are not automatic. Success comes from the involvement of all the local institutions that enriched the event with numerous actions planned together.

“These included the media centre in the heart of the town, the concerts in the Eurovision Village organised in a public park, the involvement of tour operators, shopkeepers, hoteliers, touristic hosts, taxi drivers, restaurant owners.

“The whole city was “branded” Eurovision and the atmosphere was tangible even for those who did not have a ticket for the show.”

Liverpool chef and restaurateur Paul Askew, owner of The Art School restaurant, said Eurovision said Eurovision had offered a shot in the arm for a hospitality sector that had been battered by COVID followed by soaring energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis.

“Since we were given the honour to host this epic party it’s been full throttle ever since, especially for our hospitality sector which underpins much of the economy here,” said Paul.


Claire McColgan
Claire McColgan spearheaded the city’s Eurovision efforts


Marcus Magee
Marcus Magee believes Eurovision had raised Liverpool’s credentials for hosting big events
Paul Askew
Paul Askew says Eurovision could prove to be a ‘pivotal moment’ for Liverpool


“It’s great to see hotels fully booked, restaurants with their wonderful menus, bars stocked up, local suppliers working hard and the sheer scale and scope of everything that’s happening – the events, parties and shows.

“As hospitality struggles to recalibrate post pandemic and the inflationary pressures mixed with unrealistic taxation of the industry continues to take their toll, we all hope that this is a pivotal moment for everyone in the Liverpool city region and a legacy for us all to enjoy.

“It’s no secret how hard the last three years have been – from the ravages of the pandemic to a current cost of living crisis, along with supply chain issues and staffing challenges. None of these issues have gone away.

“My hope for what comes after Eurovision is that it gives our city region a huge boost and an enduring legacy which will last for the rest of 2023 and beyond.

“Liverpool is being seen globally in a way it never has been before – especially as a tourist destination – so we all need this momentum to keep going as we navigate the ongoing challenges.”

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo in the last few days, Claire McColgan said the short deadline to deliver Eurovision had focused minds on getting the job done. This compared to what she described as the “faff’ in the longer run up to Capital of Culture.

She explained: “We had six months so everything had to happen at speed. I’ve done both and I think this is more impactful actually than Capital of Culture and that for me is incredible.

“Both different times in the city’s life – so in 2008 we were still trying to prove ourselves – this feels like we are absolutely centre stage and we have arrived in the city. It feels a completely different city to me – confident and aspirational and joyful and compassionate.”

Writing on Sunday, Claire added: “If councils across the country are looking at Liverpool now they will see the power of investing in culture over the long term.

“Because this city learnt how to do this in 2008 and built on that success with great thought, great passion and great commitment through a sometimes stormy backdrop.

“And the returns will come. If I was 18 choosing where to go to university, if I was a young investor wanting to locate my business, if I was a kid in a Liverpool school, I would look at this city and say, ‘I want to go there. I want to be there and most importantly I want to do that’.”

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