Sports Tourism – the state of affairs

Tourism has long been considered a major contributor to the economy of many of the nations of the world. There are some countries that have taken the decision that since they lack vital; mineral resources and they are unable to make much headway with secondary industries emanating from primary agricultural production, to place emphasis on the gifts of nature by establishing a sound tourism industry.
Here in the Caribbean, for example, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla and Bermuda all appear to have shifted to tourism as the single most important industry that underpins the national economy.
Over the past several years the world has come to recognise the immense value of sport, generally.
Sport has come to be seen as much more that a physical activity useful for the overall health of an individual or an activity that allows for competition amongst people. Sport today is indeed big business. It is in this regard that many governments have come to deliberately engage its populations in sport as a means of bolstering the national economy.
Sport tourism has therefore emerged as an increasingly viable option engaged in by several countries around the world.
Research reveals that there is no single agreed definition of the concept of sport tourism. Some definitions include:
Sport tourism constitutes, International trips specifically undertaken to watch sporting event.
Sport tourism involves, Travel for sport activities – Competition, Conferences, Seminars – whether as participant or spectator
Tom Robinson, senior lecturer at the Hanz University, Groningen, in a presentation on The Future of Sports Tourism – Managing and Developing the Sport Tourism Profession, noted, Therefore Sports Tourism focuses upon competitive sporting travel, whereas the term Sport Tourism is a far broader concept which embraces sport as being both recreational as well as competitive; both institutionalised and transitory. (Gammon and Robinson 1999)
The Canadians do not include leisure and recreational activities in their definition of sport tourism. Their approach nonetheless sees sport tourism as a form of grassroots development amongst communities. The Canadian Tourism Commission and the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance define sport tourists as:

  • People who must travel more than 80km and/or stay overnight to attend, compete, or otherwise be involved in a sporting event.
  • Sport is the reason they travel – they would not have otherwise traveled to that location had it not been for that specific event.

In the Caribbean, while many countries have engage din sport tourism we do not have reason to suggest that any of them has ever deliberately defined precisely what the concept means in their particular context.
We should therefore not be surprised that as yet the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) ha not really address what many see as an important sector of the tourism market around the world.

Critical components of sports tourism
There are certain critical aspects to sport tourism. A country must have the following:

  • International access
  • Sports Infrastructure
  • Hotels, Guest Houses
  • Sport Competitions
  • Television access
  • Commercial activities

Beckford noted that in the case of the Caribbean several advantages immediately come to mind in respect of the requirements for a successful sport tourism strategy if the governments of the region decide to take it seriously as part of the broader development of the Caribbean. She notes that we are already in possession of distinct competitive advantages:

  • Excellent location
  • Easy access to international flights and sound airport infrastructure
  • Excellent all-year weather/climate
  • Diverse offerings in tourism
  • Warmth and hospitality of the Caribbean people
  • Outstanding athletes
  • Well qualified coaches and technical officials

The economic value of sports tourism
There is growing evidence from countries around the world of the immense value of sport to their respective national economies. The United Kingdom (1995):

  • Expenditure on sport – 10.4 billion pounds sterling
  • Value added to the economy by sport-related economic  activity – 9.8 billion pounds sterling
  • Employment in sport – 415,000
  • The real consumer expenditure on sport for the year was 30% over 1985

Jamaica’s Carole Beckford observes that the Caribbean, for example, has reaped immense advertising benefits from the performances of the region’s athletes at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and again at the IAAF’s World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany earlier this year. The value of the advertising at the latter event may well have been in excess of $1 million should a dollar value be placed on it.
Sport Tourism is currently the fastest growing aspect of tourism globally. The November 2004 Sport Business Report revealed that the sport tourism value in 2003 was as high as $51billion, equivalent to 10 per cent of the global tourism market. By 2011, travel and tourism is expected to be more than 10 per cent of global GDP. The economies of cities, regions and even countries around the world are increasingly reliant on the visiting golfer and skier or the traveling football, rugby or cricket supporter.
In 2008 for example, sport tourism accounted for $600 billion (10%) of the international tourism market.
Sports-related travel is a $182 billion industry, generating over 47 million hotel room nights annually.
The Sports Travel Magazine ( observes that on offer are sports related corporate incentive travel; team and sports event participation travel; family and sports spectator travel; and, adventure and sports fantasy travel.
According to Rick Traer of the Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance, Canada now ranks 5th in the world among countries hosting international sports events between 2004-2014.
There are 200,000 sports events in Canada annually. Many are not international events.
The domestic sport travel in Canada shows an estimated $2.4b industry annually and growing.
The Canadian Federal government has established and approved a Federal Hosting Policy effective April 2008. $16m annual budget. There is a $500m annual dedicated sport and recreation infrastructure fund.
Traer noted that sport tourism has become a stabilising force within the global tourism industry in times of volatility. While undoubtedly there has been some decline in sporting activities because of the global meltdown it is also true that those organisations and countries that have engage din systematic planning in the industry and that operate with a strong national sports tourism policy have weathered the storm and experienced growth in the face of economic hardships.
Peter Adrien of St Kitts/Nevis, who recently published a book on Sport Tourism in the Caribbean has revealed that Jamaica is the region’s leader in this industry but nonetheless admits that even there one does not find a clearly enunciated sport tourism strategy. The same holds for the rest of the Caribbean. It is against this backdrop that one can understand the abysmal failure of the Cricket World Cup in 2007 to realise the over-inflated sport tourism expectations.
In the case of the CWC2007 the statistics reveal that while the organisers expected some 300,000 people to visit the region only 72,000 actually showed up for the event. Organisers never took into consideration the fact that the type of marketing undertaken created a situation in the international tourism market that led traditional tourists to steer clear of the region. St Lucia suffered more than most in the subsequent fallout.
There are however major challenges to be faced by those wishing to enter the sport tourism market as well as for those already involved in it.
Poon (1993) makes a distinction between old and new tourists. The old tourists focus on sun, sea and sand, facilitating their optimum relaxation. Poon observes that these tourists lie in the sun, get sunburnt, like attractions, have no special interests and eat in hotel dining rooms.
New tourists on the other hand go for satisfaction and are very sensitive about their particular segment of the market. They get up and get active, keep clothes on, try out local food and drinks
Poon then identifies the tourists of the future based on emerging trends. These people go for emotion, education, entertainment and experience. The latter is defined:
Pine and Gilmore (1998) state, “An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event”.
St Vincent and the Grenadines can become involved in sport tourism having been provided with some fundamental facilities for sport – the Squash Centre and the Tennis Centre. We already have the Bequia Regatta and the Union Island Easterval activities. These are not utilized in any genuine sport tourism sense. There does not exist a sport tourism policy, a critical feature of an genuine attempt at developing what is indeed a vital industry for a small, open and vulnerable country like ours.