All Sports, Including Sailing Need to Learn More About Sports Tourism.

Regular readers of YachtSponsorship will know that sailing is an attractive sport to those wishing to promote destinations to tourists. Government tourism agencies have invested heavily in recent years to attract top level sailing events and more venues are sought by rights owners like the World Match Racing Tour, Extreme Sailing Series and even the America’s Cup.

Winning the right to host an event is one thing – delivering a great tourism experience to visitors is another. Translating the increased exposure of the venue into an ongoing tourism dividend is something that takes even more planning and execution.

Sports tourism is growing fast. The term applies to people travelling to participate as well as those travelling to be spectators. According to Taleb Rifai from the UN World Tourism Organisation, both sport and travel are set to become even bigger in the next century. At a global level, both activities allow people to experience something new and worthwhile, but despite the opportunity, which was identified up to 10 years ago, the linkages and body of knowledge are not in place yet.

This observation is evident at an event like World Travel Market, where destinations promote themselves to the travel trade. While many sailing venue deals are publicised as being primarily for tourism purposes, the message doesn’t travel down the supply chain very well.

In recent years, sailing has been invisible at WTM. In 2010, sailing properties such as the Barcelona World Race, Volvo Ocean Race and the Oman Air sponsored Oman Sail Trimaran Majan had a small presence.

Oman Sail is a long term campaign that has many goals, one of which is to promote toursim. The Oman Sail project was not visible at the Oman stand at WTM, but Oman Air had a few shots of the 100 foot multihull that began the Route Du Rhum recently.

The sponsorship is highly targeted. Philippe Georgiou, Chief Officer Corporate Affairs for Oman Air said:

Oman is a distinctive and unique destination. It is for a discerning traveller and so the sponsorship of Oman Majan was chosen on purpose to appeal to a specific kind of audience. France is also a very important market for us, which is another reason that Oman Air backed this campaign.

Oman Air also sponsor an Omani driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup. That car was on display at WTM. It’s a lot easier to get a car on a display stand than a 40 foot or 100 foot boat.

Elsewhere at World Travel Market, Alicante had a poster advertising the start of the Volvo Ocean Race and Barcelona had a small cataloge of sports events that listed the Barcelona World Race as an event, but that was about it. Perth 2011 had no visible presence.

It’s not just sailing that needs to understand the sports tourist. Other sports are struggling to understand the needs of travellers who are spending money to visit an event.

The experience for the visitor is paramount. Chris Foy, Head of 2012 Games Unit, VisitBritain outlines the success factors for London 2012 which many sailing events could learn from.

1 – The Welcome. This includes everything from visa processing before people leave their own countries to airport advertising. Importanltly, it also includes the customer service recieved for all transactions during the visit. This is something that event organisers have little control of once the visitor has left the race village, but can have a huge impact. For example, closing the resturant at the Deville Hotel in Southampton at 10pm on Thursday night during Cowes week can wreck hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of investment elsewhere.

2 – Image. Again, this might be something that is at first glance outside the organiser’s control, but can have a big effect on the long term value. This is the piece that America’s Cup rights holders are trying to reinvent for the 34th edition. Whether the image of enormous multihulls with ‘wing-sails’ is preferable to the well established image that would be recognised by the majority of fans remains to be seen. Image also feeds into peer to peer reccomendation which is of growing importance if a tourism dividend is to be achieved from hosting an event.

3 – The economic impact. If host venues can get factors 1 and 2 right, then there is a better chance of creating a long term tourism benefit. Many destinations are now holding back up to 50% of their advertising budget for after the event to keep the momentum going rather than have a huge spike and then nothing.

If tourism is a stated aim of an event, then the tourism infrastructure has to be aware of it.

Based on an article written by David Fuller for Sports Business Radio.

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