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The Importance of Sports Tourism

With a year ahead full of important sporting events, we look at how sports tourism has grown in importance from niche market to multi-billion dollar business.

2010 kick-started with the Winter Olympics held in Whistler and despite issues over the lack of snow was expected to attract 250,000 visitors with projected benefits and revenues to Vancouver and the province in the range of $10 billion. This will be followed by the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the World Exhibition in Shanghai and the Commonwealth Games in India, the Rugby World Cup and the cricket Ashes.

All kinds of sport attract fanatical support, both at the event and at home, and there are both economical and social benefits on a national and regional level from hosting sports events, the visiting sportsmen and women, their support teams and supporters.  Not only are there the direct benefits of the money spent to provide these events and the money spent those participating but there are the indirect benefits of increased employment in providing the services, new and improved infrastructure, accommodation, amenities and the growth and development that continues as a result of such events.

In hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, there will be an estimated increase in construction workers of 8.4% in Greater London and a budget of £9.3million will be spent on construction, transport and regeneration.  South African Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk advises that construction linked to the World Cup this year could contribute R50billion to the economy, while tourism could generate a further R15billion, with 3.5 million fans expected to attend the tournament.

The UNWTO, of which ITTFA is an affiliate member, has been actively advocating to position sport and mega-events in national tourism development strategies in order to maximize their potential as a driver of growth and development. This was the main message of the inaugural Summit on Tourism, Sport and Mega Events hosted by South Africa in Johannesburg last month.  Over 450 delegates from 35 countries attended the 3 day event which provided a platform for best practices and knowledge sharing.

“Sport and tourism bring people together in many unimaginable ways and can play a major part as instruments of change”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in his opening address. He praised H.E. Jacob Zuma “for the model way in which South Africa has approached 2010 – including your outreach to make this the first African World Cup and a beacon for an inclusionary global engagement”.

ITTFA members have seen a noticeable growth in the number and type of exhibitors at their events promoting a sports package of one kind or another. Once a sporting event or mega event is booked, tourism bodies then need to encourage visitors to not only visit the event but to explore the area as a holiday destination.  Many destinations have therefore become adept at offering packages to fit a variety of sporting options be that golf championships in Dubai or the Tour de France.

“At TTG Incontri we already had many exhibitors promoting sport tourism within their products, but the real difference today is made by tourist destinations promoting themselves through major sport events”, says Antonio Dell’Aquilano, Exhibition & Event Manager TTG Italia.

“In 2009 we had a huge increase of exhibiting space by South African Tourism aimed to promote the 2010 Football Championships, Brazil is doing the same to promote the World Championships and the Olympics and this will happen more and more in future years. National Tourist Authorities and Boards understand that sport events are currently the biggest vehicle of promotion for the whole territory and a wonderful occasion to present the destination and many different tourist products beyond the main reason for the trip, the sport event itself.”

Spela Bratun, Project Manager for ITTFA member fair TIP Slovenia, says that they have seen an increase in the number of exhibitors promoting sports tourism at TIP since 2009. The main activities are cycling, skiing, golf, windsurfing, rafting and hiking and their aim for the past two years has been to promote the inbound sports and leisure market.

Some member shows inadvertently increase the demand for sports tourism by targeting sports faciities in order to add value for their already established exhibitor base, ie tour operators looking for new providers in particular sector.

ITTFA is dedicated to the continual development of the travel trade show industry, increasing participation and setting high standards worldwide.