Successful sport tourism I

Sport Business News

The trouble with sports tourism is that it is so hard to get your arms around, writes SportBusiness' David Walmsley and Phil Savage in the first part of a two–part feature for MEI.

As soon as you think you have a workable definition, another element pops up. And when it comes to establishing the benefits of sports tourism it can be just as tricky. The solution is not to imagine you are talking about one thing, argues a new report from SportBusiness. The thousands of visitors arriving in Beijing clutching tickets for the 29th Olympic Games counted as sports tourists, as would a man collecting a set of golf clubs from an airport baggage carousel in the Algarve. But if a visitor to the South Africa World Cup spends more than half their trip on safari will they count? And what about the father and son who take a couple of windsurfing lessons during a beach holiday? Does a family day out at Melbourne Cricket Ground's National Sports Museum (NSM) count too? Academics involved in this field have paid far more attention to this debate than have those on the ground selling the match tickets, ski passes and travel packages. Yet awareness of the way in which the market is segmented is a cornerstone of any successful sports tourism strategy. This goes for venues and destinations alike, whether aspiring or established. Firstly, each segment differs significantly in its character and requirements. Without a thorough analysis of the make–up of each segment, a sports tourism destination is unlikely to understand or meet its requirements and will therefore fail to achieve its objectives. Secondly, it is impossible to assess the impacts and benefits of a sports tourism strategy if it remains unclear which visitors, participants or spectators are contributing to those gains. In the current economic climate, being able to demonstrate that new tourist dollars were only spent through the existence of a particular sporting event, facility or participation opportunity is the sole sure–fire means of justifying investment in a sports tourism strategy. Sports tourism spending is notoriously difficult to isolate; clearly delineating where this expenditure begins and ends makes its measurement far more reliable. Humans are notoriously messy creatures and the task of getting a complete picture of sports tourism is made more complicated by individual behaviours. We simply refuse to be defined insisting on using our trips for a variety of purposes. On the one hand, this blurring of boundaries can create difficulties in making precise impact assessments; on the other, it creates opportunities for innovative destinations to increase the sum of their component parts. In Melbourne, for example, the city's primary nostalgia sports tourism venue, the NSM, is able to draw on its spectator sector for both marketing and footfall. It works closely with the Victorian Major Events Company to tie in its temporary attractions with the city's hosting schedule. Exhibition producer Jed Smith described the marketing advantages of Melbourne's event host status as simply "massive", with visitor numbers peaking during the city's major sports tourism weeks around the likes of the Australian Tennis Open, the Formula One Grand Prix and the MCG's international cricket Tests. He explained: "The press are always looking for different angles when covering the many events taking place in Melbourne, and we also try to tie in our marketing with these events whenever possible; for example, come to the Tennis Open and get into the NSM at reduced rate with your ticket. "Elsewhere, the links are far more formal, both between the individual strands of sports tourism and with other elements of a broader state tourism strategy. Dubai's all–out, all–sector approach to tourism development, in particular, means that sports tourism in the Emirate is not seen as a specialist sector but as a contributor in its own right to all the rest. Assistant professor in marketing and strategy at the Consortium University of Leuven, Belgium, Robert Govers spent four years lecturing on tourism in Dubai and said of the Emirate's approach: "There most probably is no specific sports tourism strategy but everything that is developed and has been developed over the last few years is 'multi–purpose' and includes sports elements. Events are important, but most projects and resorts are linked to sports facilities, so participation is also on the agenda. Then there is a third element which is the strategy they have in attracting international federations, major clubs and professionals. " The examples of Melbourne and Dubai identify the three main types of visitor that can contribute to a sports tourism strategy, either singly or in combination:• Spectator sports tourism, • Participation sports tourism, and• Nostalgia sports tourismAlongside that list should also be considered incidental tourism (general tourism with some sports content), which may not have as intense a sporting focus as the other three, but clearly has a value in its own right. Impacts will vary hugely within individual sectors according to the sport, facility and location assessed, but in terms of the degree to which sport is at the centre of the tourism experience a clear hierarchy can be seen. Sports tourism intensity hierarchyAmong participants, establishing why they are there is easy but within the group there is a clear distinction between recreational and competitive participation. The recreational tourist is the bread and butter of snow sports resorts and golf complexes, whilst the serious competitor is represented by competitive events (usually amateur) that can be used either as a value add for recreation–led destinations or as one–off or serial generators of short–term tourism flows. Examples of these are a marathon or junior football tournament and it is interesting to observe that one of the strands of Singapore's sports tourism strategy revolves around the staging of road running races. When looking at events, the definition of participation tourism takes in visitors whose presence is dependent on their relationship with the competitors–the coaches, family and friends who could be characterised as comprising their support structures–or the functioning of the event–e. g. officials and media personnel. When trying to understand the economic and other benefits of sports tourism the one–size approach also fails to paint the full picture of impacts. Some sports tourists are easily recognised; others blend in with the crowd. At one extreme there is the Dutch football fan in the orange boiler suit; at the other, the identikit marathon runner in the race of thousands. The benefits of sports tourism to a destination or venue are equally diverse–not just in their relative ease of identification, but also in their scale, significance and duration. Pinning down these benefits is the essential starting point for the development of any sports tourism strategy, at the heart of which must sit the rationale for pursuing this course of development: quite simply, why sports tourism? Nine times out of 10, the straight answer is 'for the money' and, on the face of it, the bare numbers suggest that is good enough. Tourism Victoria's data indicate the 320, 000 international visitors drawn to the Australian state by major sporting events in 2006 contributed A$1. 2bn to its economy, whilst EventScotland aims to secure an 8:1 return on its investment in sports tourism generating events. Whilst those headlines offer good news, the devil is in the detail as measuring and assessing benefits accruing from individual events and destination development is complicated by a wide range of factors. Direct expenditure is easier to identify around ticketed spectator events than in participation destinations where sports tourism may be just one aspect of a holiday with a multi–activity focus. But in the spectator sector, the strategist is also faced with the task of identifying which portion of economic impact is truly additional expenditure and not simply spending displaced from either another time period or another tourist group. This feature was continued on Monday 14 September 2009. Please cut and paste the following link into your browser to access it:http://www. majoreventsint. com/pub/news. php? mscID=703David Walmsley is the author of Sports Tourism: Strategies for Successful Development published in 2009 by SportBusiness. Phil Savage is managing director of SportBusiness Group. Special offer for MEI readersSportBusiness is pleased to offer a £100 discount to any MEI readers if they purchase Sports Tourism: Strategies for Successful Development. To take advantage of this offer, please call +44 (0)20 7954 3476 or e–mail shona. odonnell@sportbusiness. com

Additional information