What is Sports Tourism?

There is a lot of discussion that goes on about the economic impact of sporting events. It is commonly believed that sporting events benefit the overall economy of a region in many ways. However, tourism is often considered to be one of the main ways in which an economy benefits from the proliferation of sports and hosting of sporting events.

It needs to be understood that the usage of the term sports tourism is relatively new. This is despite the fact that the concept is not new at all. People have been traveling to visit sporting events across the world for a very long time.

However, detailed studies regarding the economic impact of this phenomenon have been studied only recently. As a result, the term sports tourism has been coined to describe this phenomenon.

In this article, we will try to have a closer look at what sports tourism is, how it impacts the economy as well and the various forms of sports tourism.

What is Sports Tourism?

It is important to note that the term sports tourism has a broad definition. Sports tourism includes any kind of travel and tourism activity which is triggered by sports. The travel could be related to personal participation in sports, viewing a sporting event, or visiting a sporting event that has historical significance such as a sports museum. Hence, the act of traveling from one location to another with any intention of being involved in sports activities can be considered to be sports tourism.

This is opposed to the intuitive belief which many people have about sports tourism. The general belief is that sports tourism is restricted only to people visiting a different location in order to view an important sporting event. This is only a subset of sports tourism.

It is important to ensure that the concept of sports tourism is correctly defined. In the absence of the correct definition, it is difficult to set the scope for what can be considered to be an economic activity related to sports tourism. As a result, obtaining economic data can be difficult.

Types of Sports Tourism

In order to have a better understanding of the concept, it is important to have a closer look at the different types of sports tourism:

  1. Event Tourism: Sports event tourism is a type of tourism wherein people travel from one location to another in response to a specific sporting event. It is important to note that sports events can be of different types and sizes.

    For instance, college leagues, school leagues, etc can also be considered to be sporting events and any tourism-related to such events can also be considered to be sports tourism. However, it is important to realize that the economic contributions of most of these events are negligible.

    The biggest economic contribution is the result of hosting mega events such as the World Cup, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Olympics, or the Super Bowl. Also, it is relatively easier to obtain economic data about such events since they are always the subject of media attention and scrutiny. There is no question about the fact that mega sporting events bring thousands of tourists to any location.

    For example, when Qatar hosted the recently concluded FIFA World Cup, a large number of fans from all the thirty-two national teams came in to view the event. Event-related tourism is by far the biggest subset of sports tourism.

  2. Nostalgia Tourism: Nostalgia tourism is quite different from event-related tourism. Event-related tourism is about the economic effects of a sports tournament that is currently going on. On the other hand, nostalgia tourism celebrates the iconic sports moments that have happened in the past.

    There are many sports fans who have an emotional bond with certain immemorable sporting experiences. Such visitors want to revel in the nostalgia of such moments. As a result, they visit these locations which leads to tourism-related revenue for such locations.

    For instance, the Old Trafford stadium which hosts Manchester United also hosts a larger number of tourists every year. The city is able to benefit from this tourism and earn revenue which would not have been possible if the city did not host Manchester United.

    In order to encourage such forms of tourism, many locations have built special museums and parks where they provide new and innovative fan experiences by helping them relive important moments with a walkthrough of the Hall of Fame.

  3. Active Tourism: The third component of sports-related tourism is active tourism. While the above two components were mostly about spectators, this one is related to the players themselves.

    When a city hosts a sporting club, the entire team, the management as well and the junior leagues of those teams are required to move to the host city for a certain part of the year. It is common for people to move in with their families. Hence, there is an increased demand for all services because of this movement.

    It is true that the economic impact of active tourism is minuscule and even negligible as compared to other forms of tourism. However, it forms an important piece of the overall sports tourism industry and hence it is important to estimate its economic impact as well.

Hence, it can be said that hosting a sports team does provide the local government with an opportunity to improve tourism in that area. However, the presence of a team alone is not enough. It can be a catalyst. However, other factors also need to fall in place for a significant economic impact to be felt by the community at large.


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