Sport Tourism set for a bumper 2011

2010 was a vintage year for sport tourism, but if you’d be mistaken for thinking the next 12 months will see a sporting hangover. Get ready for an action-packed 2011 featuring the world championships in swimming and athletics, plus the cricket and rugby world cups.

There is no doubt that 2010 has been a vintage year for sport tourism. From the Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup to the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games, this year has provided four mega sporting events which have produced memorable moments both on and off the pitch.

Sport tourism is travel industry’s fastest growing sector, and contribute an astonishing 14 percent of overall travel and tourism receipts, according to World Sport Destination Expo, the only global exhibition and business forum dedicated to showcasing the full spectrum of Sport Tourism related products and services.

Next year this market share is expected to rise further thanks to a calendar rammed full of world-class sporting entertainment.

Sporting events to look forward include India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh jointly hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup in February; Germany staging the Women’s football World Cup in June and July; the FINA World Swimming Championships being held in Shanghai, China from July 16-31 and the South Korean city of Daegu welcoming the IAAF World Athletics Championships from August 27-September 4.

However, the event expected to be the highlight of 2011 will be the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand – the spiritual home of rugby union.

When New Zealand’s All Blacks kick-off against Tonga at Auckland’s Eden Park on September 9 the match will see six years of hard work become a reality for the tournament organisers.

It is well known across the globe that the Kiwis are mad for their rugby, so it is fitting that the 2011 Rugby World Cup will be the biggest event ever staged in New Zealand.

Tourism New Zealand, the country’s tourism board, is one of the organisations playing a huge role in the hosting of next year’s mega event.

Gregg Anderson, general manager Western long haul markets at Tourism New Zealand, told Breaking Travel News of the importance of the event.

He said: “The Rugby World Cup is absolutely crucial to New Zealand’s tourism industry. The legacy that the event will create is two-fold. The 2011 World Cup will bring a lot of visitors down to New Zealand and what we are aiming for is to provide not just a sporting experience, but also a spiritual experience for our visitors to enjoy and talk about when they leave. The second major legacy will be the investment in infrastructure and sporting stadiums.”

One of the major projects has been the redevelopment of Auckland’s iconic Eden Park stadium.

A three-year, NZ$240million (£114m) refurbishment includes a new six-level, 21,500-seat South Stand and a new three-tier East Stand. The capacity of Eden Park has been increased to 60,000 and the stadium will host the finals and the opening and closing ceremonies.

The AMI Stadium in Christchurch also has a new stand and the capacity has been increased to around 43,000. Another major development in Christchurch is a walkway from the centre of the city all the way to the stadium. This was trialled during the Bledisloe Cup match between the All Blacks and Australia in August.

The city of Dunedin is getting the only brand new stadium – The Forsyth Barr Stadium at University Plaza. Carisbrook, an arena that has been the graveyard of many a visiting team in the past, is being set aside and the city will become home to the country’s first fully-roofed stadium.

The new stadia will be vital as approximately 85,000 fans are expected for the tournament, with Anderson predicting huge numbers travelling from the UK.

“New Zealand will see 85,000 visitors come from across all markets,” he added. “We are expecting 32,000-33,000 from across Europe, with the vast majority from the UK.

“This will provide a huge injection for the visitor industry and we will get coverage and publicity that we have not seen on a global scale since the Lords of the Rings films and the last British and Irish Lions rugby tour [in 2005].”

New Zealand’s hosting of the 2005 Lions tour has provided the country with vital experience in arranging match schedules and the movement of fans across the north and south islands.

One major trend to emerge from the Lions tour in 2005 has been the use of cruise ships as an accommodation option.

“There will be a number of cruise ships based in New Zealand – and for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals you will see cruise ships in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch,” Anderson said.

Another popular development is Auckland’s ‘party central’ area where both international visitors and locals will be able to watch games together.

So while there will be parties off the pitch, all it now takes is for the All Blacks to have a party on it and win the 2011 Rugby World Cup final on October 23 at Eden Park.  I would not advise anyone to bet against them – but don’t say that to fans of the Wallabies, Springboks or European nations…

Eastern promise

Since Beijing hosted the Olympic Games in 2008, Asia has continued to be a hot-spot for sports tourism – not just for spectator events, but also participant activities and sports business.

Following on from its first-ever F1 Grand Prix in October, South Korea will again be under the spotlight when Daegu hosts the IAAF World Athletics Championships. Organisers will also be hoping that Usain Bolt will again be in unbeatable form and attract a full house to Daegu Stadium, one of the host arenas of the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals.

In November 2011, Indonesia will be the host nation of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), which will see the 11 countries of southeast Asia going head-to-head in a multi-sport event. The major development will be the US$159m renovation of the Jakabaring Sports Complex in Palembang. New facilities will include an athlete’s village and new golf course.

For tennis fans, Thailand will again be one of two destinations in southeast Asia to host an ATP World Tour event in 2011.

The PTT Thailand Open, which was first held in 2003, has attracted some of the biggest names in tennis and can boast Roger Federer as a back-to-back winner in 2004 and 2005.

The ATP tennis event has become one of Thailand’s big sports tourism attractions, but there is no doubt about the other – golf.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revealed earlier this year that golf will be one of the focus sectors for its 2011 marketing strategy.  TAT will highlight the country’s world-class golf courses via its “Amazing Thailand Golf Paradise” campaign. While Thailand will market its courses and playing facilities, one area of sports tourism where the country is particularly thriving is in the golf MICE sector.

In 2011 Thailand will host at least six golf industry conferences and exhibitions including the 2011 Asian Golf Tourism Forum, the 2011 Asia Pacific Golf Summit and the 2011 Asia Pacific Golf Industry Show.

Thailand will also play host to the WSDE Sport Tourism Expo in Bangkok from 27-30 September 2011. The annual exhibition aims to present the future business deals and source new contacts and markets, but also to gain invaluable insights from the advanced knowledge of market leaders.