Sport has always been an important part of society, but with the global emergence of sports tourism it has also become an increasingly important part of the economy. Consequently, the measurement and evaluation of benefits and costs (economic impact) of sporting events to host destinations and communities have become a focus of increasing interest to a number of groups, including policy makers and sporting officials. Based on the proven economic benefits and impact that sport has delivered to a number of countries, governments worldwide have become increasingly supportive of further investment in and funding of sport.
Sports tourism constitutes 5-10% of the total worldwide tourism value, estimated to be between $25-50 billion (DEAT & SA Tourism 2005). In some countries sport can account for as much as 25% of all tourism receipts. Owing to its strong linkages with other industries and its potential contribution to the national GDP, tourism is a valuable industry in a country’s economy. The tourism sector’s contribution to Dubai’s GDP, for example, is 18% - higher than that of the oil sector, which contributes about 17%, according to Ahmed Al Banna, Assistant General Co-Coordinator of Dubai 2003 (The Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund).
Sport expands tourism in two ways: firstly, through domestic and international tourists participating in sport or a recreational activity available in a country during their visit and, secondly, through people travelling to a country as spectators or participants in major sporting events. Sport can also be the sole reason for a tourist making a visit.
Business visitors may be attracted to a conference not only for business reasons, but also because the conference venue offers sports facilities. The interdependence of sport and tourism has been highlighted and it has been claimed that around 25% of domestic holidays include some sports involvement as the primary purpose of the trip, with 50% of domestic holidays including some form of participation in sport.
It has also been shown that major events expand the market of future tourists by attracting to a country some visitors who would otherwise not have visited. In Canada, for example, almost 40% of visiting spectators at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary were visiting the city for the first time, and 27% had never heard of Calgary prior to the Olympics (Sport Canada, 2008). This way of attracting first-time visitors can lead to return visits or recommendations to friends or relatives.
An individual sporting personality also has the ability to impact the sport’s economy. According to research carried out for the sponsors of the World Match Play, it was estimated that the presence of Tiger Woods, the world’s number one golfer, in Britain and Ireland for a period of only three weeks in 2006 would boost the golf economy by £170 million, as he would attract tens of thousands of extra fans, boost media coverage by at least 25%, generate millions of pounds through tourism, hospitality and sponsorship, and inspire people to try golf for themselves and join clubs.
The intriguing nature of the business of sport and tourism emanates from the fact that it knows no barriers of language or culture, spans every sport imaginable, every age group and every demographic, and includes both those who travel to play and those who travel to watch their sport of choice. However, it should be realised that the relationship between sports tourism and the social, cultural, environmental and economic environments is constantly changing, and that the success with which these impacts are understood and managed could very well affect the success or failure of prospective sports tourism development.
Sports tourists are generally passionate, high-spending, and enjoy new sporting experiences, often stimulating other tourism categories. The direct benefit to a destination is cash – the indirect benefit can be years of return visits as tourists.
Sports tourism is a tool for achieving many things – to make money, create thousands of new jobs and even help change cultural perceptions, for instance in the Middle East, South Africa and, more recently, in Germany where it created a new German identity during the 2006 FIFA World Cup).
Sports tourism is a multibillion-dollar business and one of the most intriguing of modern-day service industries. The growth of sports tourism has been driven by increased global interest in sporting events on the back of the massive expansion in satellite and digital television coverage over the past 10 years. For example, the 2006 World Cup stands as one of the most-watched events in television history, garnering an estimated 26.29 billion non-unique viewers, compiled over the course of the tournament. The final match attracted an estimated audience of 715.1million people (World Cup and Television, FIFA: 2006). With more leisure time, more disposable income and more cheap travel, sport is no longer just an add-on for travellers – in many instances it is the sole reason for travelling in the first place. Sports tourism is one of the fastest growing areas of the $4,5 trillion global travel and tourism industry. By 2011, travel and tourism is expected to account for more than 10% of the global gross domestic product. The economies of cities, regions and countries around the world are increasingly reliant on sports-related tourists.
Research (Richie & Adair, 2002) presented to the World Tourism Organisation and IOC Conference on sports tourism in February 2001 illustrated that the three main markets in Europe showed a clear increase in sports-oriented holidays. German tourists accounted for 32 million sports-orientated trips a year, or 55% of all outbound travel, while 52% (7 million) of all trips made by Dutch tourists included a sports component. The British Tourist Board and the English Tourism Council (formerly the English Tourism Board) claim that as many as 20% of tourist trips are directly related to sports participation, while 50% of holidays contain some incidental sports participation.
The following table shows how the staging of mega events generates incremental tourism in the ‘games-year’, as well as in the years prior and subsequent to the hosting of the event (typically a range of 10 to 15 years). Examples include domestic and international tourism, other local business revenues (e.g. retail), and government tax revenue.
INDUCED BENEFITS TO HOST CITY/COUNTRY (TOURISM DURING, PRE- & POST-EVENT)