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Understanding Sports Tourism

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For some time now, the concept of “Sports Tourism” has been bandied about by many industry stakeholders.

The terminology sounds good to the ears and slides out of the mouth with ease. But while the concept has found its way into the local scheme of things, more must be done before, if we are to embark on such a thrust.{{more}}

As I see it, the term is used loosely.

Sports itself is a big business. Sports Tourism is a multi million dollar business, and one of the fastest growing areas of the $4.5 trillion global travel tourism industry.

Projections show that by 2011, travel and tourism are expected to account for more than ten percent of the global domestic product.

Several non tourism countries are cashing in on this growing trend. In some countries, sports tourism accounts for as much as twenty five per cent of all tourism receipts.

Sports tourists are passionate, high spending, enjoy new sporting experiences and help to kick start other forms of tourism, hence the reason why greater attention is being paid to it world wide.

The manner in which countries are bidding to host major world tournaments and other top sporting events tells the story.

The Barmy Army that follows around the English cricket team, the Trini Posse, the Bajan Posse, all of whom have been travelling around the world with the West Indies, continue to give this emerging industry its prominence.

Other countries, which are non traditional tourism driven, are moving swiftly to capitalize on the harvest generated by Sports and its derivative spin offs.

Governments fuel this industry by investing in stadia and other linkages so as to maximize the returns.

The stakeholders here, while with good intent, used the concept widely as this country prepared to host warm up matches for World Cup Cricket last year.

It was thought that we would have reaped a bountiful harvest as visitors were to have come here in droves. As it turned out, the reverse was the case. But it was at least worth the try.

Again the experts would tell you that inviting a few teams here or staging a tournament or hosting some matches are not enough, as after-parties, group tours and other packages must be part of the package.

A person just does not leave his or her locale and go somewhere else because there is a sporting event; he or she wants complementary activities to ensure that there is never a dull moment in the stay.

Some time ago, we hosted an annual Game Fishing Tournament, but that has faded into nothingness. This catered for a more up market clientele.

The once staged Chatoyer Endurance race is no longer with us, while the North Leeward 10 K was not staged last year after its initial impact in 2005 and 2006.

We need to develop a tournament or an annual event that we can claim, market, and which can add impetus to the tourism industry as others who have gone the way of sports tourism have done.

What events like these do is to put the country into focus. The Antigua and Barbuda government cannot pay for the publicity gained from the hosting of the Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament. And I am certain that the rewards are around the corner.

Those countries which have mastered the strategy would quickly tell you that Sports Tourism is just one of the links in the nexus.

The potential is there for us to cash in on piece of the pie, even we have to nibble at it first. We have lots going for us. The annual Bequia Regatta has gained international notice, but more can be done, the same way Antigua and Barbuda has done with its Sailing Week.

The refurbished Arnos Vale Playing Field with its amenities and with more planning can be used as an off-season or pre-season training facility.

Easter festivities are yearly. We have each year the various institutions hosting the neighbours from across the region. That is also a start, but can only be done with thought and vision.

But that vision was lacking when the “Mound “ was erected at the Sion Hill Playing Field.

kingroache@yahoo.com

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