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Do we really understand the impact of sports tourism?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

It is high time that we start to recognise what sports tourism is and move away from talking a good talk about how much we as a country want to embark on a sports tourism drive.

But the question lies, do we fully understand what is sports tourism? While this is an important aspect, it is not just the experience of travel to engage in or view sport-related activities. Travelling to engage in activities or attracting foreign athletes and teams is what we’ve tend to focused on but there are other components that might worth the while tapping into. Tourism’s economic impact is one of the most researched but least understood areas of tourism. Sports tourism inevitably affects more than the economy; tourists by their presence impact on the host population and, at least in some regards, hosts have an effect on their visitors.

It is generally recognised that there are three types of sports tourism: Sports Event Tourism, Active Sports Tourism, and Nostalgia Sports Tourism.

Sports event tourism is self-explanatory really. It can range from CPL cricket to Rugby Sevens, Cycling on the Avenue to Caribbean Cup football. Some events often overlooked are amateur sporting events.

Active Sports Tourism entails travelling to other destinations to participate in events. And no, it’s not our athletes and officials or fans becoming a tourist of a certain destination because of the fact that we are visitors for the period. What it is or should be is we as nationals using the opportunity to market what we have to offer in T&T. So perhaps, leading team members or designated staff can be assigned the roles of marketing the T&T brand.

For instance, the cricket teams can, through press briefings on location in an overseas destination, or through courtesy visits or meetings with stakeholders, use the opportunity to attract the hosts to the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, the Queen’s Park Oval or simply let them know what an attraction it would be to engage in a sporting activity in the land of Sand, Sea and Sunshine. Football could now market its own Home of Football, or the other stadia in Marabella, Malabar or Tobago. Athletics could lure the foreigners into visiting T&T for a training camp to try and discover the secret behind the success of Keshorn Walcott.

Then there is nostalgia sports tourism which involves travelling to and also welcoming and entertaining visitors to famous sport-related attractions such as events and venues. This is where we could be a real force. This is where we need to step up our game. This is the part of sports tourism that can strengthen national heritage, identity, and community spirit as local people join together to promote their own culture.

Forgive me if I’m unaware, but there is hardly anything about the Brian Lara Academy that is mind-blowing when it comes to history. Last year I had a colleague visiting from India for three days and top of his bucket list was visiting the Brian Lara stadium. All he wanted was the chance to take photos at the venue and was willing to pay at least $200 TT to access the venue. Unfortunately, there were no events happening at the time but that’s the thing. Why couldn’t there be a museum type setting with a tour guide that allows patrons both local and foreign, to pay a small fee and get the chance to experience the venue and get the chance to purchase paraphernalia of West Indies Cricket and Lara?

Credit to Brian himself for having a temporary set-up near the Queen’s Park Oval during the 2017 CPL. Think of how excited we are to take stadium tours of Manchester United or Barcelona for those of us who get to travel. It is the same manner in which we must think of our own.

Another experience I had a couple years ago was a British partner Danny booking a flight to Tobago just only for the opportunity to visit the Dwight Yorke Stadium. Sadly for him, there was nothing other than a sign on the scoreboard signifying “Dwight Yorke”. Imagine how much a small viewing room with images of Yorke and an area for photo ops would be an attraction to someone like Danny. I regularly interact with visiting sporting officials and journalists who ask about Hasely Crawford. Who he is? What did he achieve? There is nothing other than a window image at the VIP lounge and something you would easily walk by without noticing on the lower floor of the covered stand’s entrance. It is more than placing some images on a wall and calling it a Wall of Fame.

Once we can make these improvements without expecting an overnight return in $$, then it should become mandatory that these are included on a list of attractions for visitors either at the various hotels or in-flight.

Editor’s Note: Shaun Fuentes is a media trainer, coaching athletes how to present themselves before cameras and how to handle the microphone. He has travelled for work in over 75 countries and was a FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He also serves as a CONCACAF Events Media operations officer.


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