Will sport tourism be this year’s champion?
Although tourism on the whole is experiencing growth, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, in terms of visitors, is widening.
I can’t help thinking that, while many of the ‘have not’ destinations may offer great weather, cuisine and sites of historic interest – if they don’t offer something for the sports enthusiast, they are unlikely to see visitor numbers grow in a significant way – at least while we’re all feeling the economic pinch.
Should that lead us to conclude that introducing sport to a country equals more profit from tourism?
Well, for countries currently offering quality golf, tennis, football and the like, sport tourism is reportedly generating up to 25 per cent of total tourism revenue.
Of course, if you don’t have a sporting tradition to trade on, it’s not the end of the world – as long as you can afford to buy some major sporting events.
Qatar is set to pay US$70billion in cash to create its 2022 World Cup infrastructure.
Ticket sales for the games are likely to amount to around $1 billion; then there will be hotel bills, plus food and beverages. That’s all good, but doesn’t seem likely to balance the $70billion-plus outlay.
So is it a long-term game plan? A ‘legacy’ plan?
Qatar obviously thinks so, and neighbouring Dubai makes a case for it with the success of events such as the Dubai World Cup horse race and the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament.
In Dubai Sports City, now being built on 50 million square feet of development land, every sport you can imagine can be played or watched, and it seems a racing certainty that this monster will become one of the world’s leading sports venues.
On the flipside, with the love of sport growing in the Middle East – particularly the UAE – surrounding destinations are attempting to lure residents away with sporting attractions of their own.
Arrivals to Kenya from the Middle East grew by 102 per cent between January and September 2012, with one of the driving factors being the nation’s aggressive marketing of golf.
John Chirchir of the Kenya Tourist Boards recently said:
“Golf is increasing in popularity in the Middle East and compared to Asia, Europe or US, Kenya can offer golf enthusiasts the most desirable courses at a fraction of a cost, along with a unique holiday with families.”
Whichever way you look at it – sport is big business in this region, and MENA destinations with their eye on the prize must start punching above their weight in the sporting arena.