Sport Tourism Essay

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The term sport tourism has become increasingly common in the tourism industry over the past five years; it is a lucrative segment of the tourism business. Lavalle (1997) estimated that sport tourism is a 845 billion industry. Sport-oriented vacations, however, are really nothing new. After all, the Romans and Greeks traveled to and participated in numerous sports events. Today’s sport tourism is merely a new adaptation on an old theme. The growth in the popularity of sport-oriented leisure travel can be viewed daily. Cars laden with bicycles, skis, and canoes are a frequent sight on our highways.

Likewise, the number of vacation destinations offering sporting facilities has grown tremendously. The profusion of golfers and new golf courses is a perfect example of the interest in sport-oriented travel. Waters (1990) reported that the shortage of golf courses in certain areas has prompted many travelers to spend their vacations at resorts that provide the opportunity to play their favorite games. Cruise ships, Walt Disney World, hotels, and communities all use sports as a marketing weapon in the battle for the tourism dollar.

Town and cities contend with one another for the rights to host sporting events — from the hallmark events such as the Olympic Games to the championship series of various amateur sports. Why has sport tourism become so prominent in recent years? Exactly what is sport tourism and what does it mean for communities and municipal park and recreation departments? What is Sport Tourism? Over the past 10 years, there has been a growing debate in the academic community over the definition of sport tourism.

Some of this stems from an ongoing discussion as to whether or not sport should refer only to competitive, formally organized physical activities (Loy, 1968). Should sport also encompass physical activities that are not governed by rules and time, and where competition may be minimal (Coakley, 1991)? Another debate surrounds tourism. Exactly who is a tourist? How far do you have to travel to be labeled a tourist? Is there a difference between a day-tripper and a person who stays at least one night away from home (IUOTO, 1963)?

Why does it matter? If we are to effectively gauge the economic and social impacts on our communities, we need to be able to identity the sport tourist. Also, to effectively market and prepare events and facilities for the sport tourist, we need to be able to recognize this group. Thus, I would propose a working definition of sport tourism as, “Leisure-based travel that takes individuals temporarily outside of their home communities to play, watch physical activities, or venerate attractions associated with these activities. Specifically, I suggest: three major types of sport tourism: active sport tourism, event sport tourism, and nostalgia sport tourism (Gibson, 1998). Active Sport Tourism Active sport tourism refers to participation in sports away from the home community. Despite the pervasiveness of sport in American culture, and the so-called “fitness boom,” actual participation in sport declined for most segments of the population during the eighties and nineties. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity (1996) found that less than 20 percent of the U. S. population is physically active on a regular basis.

Nonetheless, despite the number of people who regularly participate in sport, these individuals are active participants. Howard (1992) found that two percent of the population accounts for 75 percent of the participation rates in physical activities. In a survey commissioned by Marriott International (Elrick & Lavidge, Inc, 1994), 22 percent of respondents considered opportunities to participate in sport important when planning a vacation. De Knop (1995) writes of the duplication effect, in which active sport tourists are those individuals who are physically active in their leisure at home.

Thus, while il would be incorrect to overemphasize the attraction of active sport tourism for the majority of the American population, there is a sizable minority that selects a vacation destination based on its sporting facilities. These travelers tend to be college educated, relatively affluent, and willing to roam in search of the ultimate sport experience (Delpy, 1998; Gibson et al. , 1998). Resorts and other segments of the hospitality industry have become increasingly aware of the need to provide top-of-the-line facilities for the active sport tourist.

Resorts have become meccas for the active sport tourist. Championship golf courses; challenging, well-groomed alpine ski runs; high-quality tennis courts; a wide range of water sports; and ultra-modern fitness facilities lure the discerning active sport tourist. Urban business hotels have also recognized the importance of providing sports and fitness facilities. Hotel health clubs, jogging trails, guest privileges at nearby fitness facilities, and golf-course access have become the norm at most large urban hotels. Cruise lines have not missed out on this trend, either.

Passengers aboard the Legend of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) can play golf on an 18-hole miniature-golf course after enjoying a fully equipped gym, spa, and sauna. Carnival Cruise Lines offers “Spa and Sport Talks. ” while Royal Caribbean encourages participation in its fitness programs by offering passengers “shipshape dollars” as incentives. Many of the old health spas have also been rejuvenated to cater to the specific interests of fitness-minded women. The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa in Florida boasts 35 fitness classes a day, and the Peaks Resort and Spa in Colorado provides “the ultimate fitness for body and mind” (The Spa Finder, 1996).

Event Sport Tourism Not all sport tourists travel to take part in sport; some travel to watch sporting events. And some do both. Events such as the. Olympic Games or FIFA World Cup are examples of sporting occasions that have become major tourist attractions. World Cup ’94 in the United States and the Olympic Games in Atlanta were actively promoted as tourist attractions. Sports events on a somewhat smaller scale, such as the U. S. Open tennis tournament and the Super Bowl, are part of the spectator-centered sector of sport tourism.

Likewise, tourism associated with professional, college, and amateur sports is also part of tiffs form of sport tourism. Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports venue can host 32 different sports including tennis, beach volleyball, and field hockey. Research on the impact s of hosting sport events is extensive. Ritchie (1984) discussed a number of positive and negative impacts –physical, socio-cultural, and economic — felt by a community hosting major sport event s. A study by Barry University estimated that hosting the 1995 Super Bowl generated $204. million for the south Florida economy (Davis, 1995). However, Matzielli (1989) cautions that the impacts of hosting such events vary considerably and are often dependent on the indicators used to measure the effects. Nonetheless, for many communities in the United States, hosting sports events — from the Super Bowl to the state youth-football championships — has become a priority. Indeed, as Collins (1991) suggests, “Sports events can provide a tourist focus when nature has failed to do so, or can spread the use of accommodation into off-peak periods or stimulate accommodation provision” (p. 199).

Target-specific travel agents, such as Sport Tours, a Massachusetts-based tour company specializing in package trips to major-league baseball games and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, have emerged, catering to travelers who want to attend major sports events. Nostalgia Sport Tourism Visiting sports halls of fame such as the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts; sports museums such as the NASCAR Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina; and famous sporting venues such as the Olympic arenas in Atlanta or Los Angeles, or Yankee Stadium in New York has become an increasingly popular touristic pursuit.

Redmond (1990) suggests that museums and halls of fame enable sport to be included in the heritage interpretation movement, which is gaining more importance around the world. Writing about sports facilities as tourist attractions, Bale (1988) suggests that some sports edifices “can develop over time, a sufficient mystique to become tourist attractions in their own fight” (p. 120). Wrigley Field in Chicago, the Toronto SkyDorne, and even sites of future Olympic Games are on the list of such tourism venues. Even famous sports re, tail stores are tourist attractions.

The Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor World is one of Missouri’s top tourist attractions, and “you don’t have to be a fisherman or a hunter to enjoy the visit” (Carlton, 1993, p. 30). Another trend in this category of sport tourism has emerged in recent years: meeting famous sports personalities. The cruise industry has been very adept in this area. Theme cruises such as Norwegian Cruise Lines’ “Pro-Am Golf Cruise” or the “NBA Basketball Cruise” allow passengers to meet sports personalities on the ship. Little research exists regarding this nostalgia-based sport tourism.

Lewis and Redmond (1974) and Redmond (1981) documented the growth of sports museums around the world (cited in Redmond, 1990, p. 166). Zelkovitz (1996) conducted participant observation in sports halls of fame and sports museums in Sweden, Canada, and the United States, analyzing the cultural and social differences of the tourists in each of these countries. This is an area with a wide range of opportunities for research. Who is a nostalgia sport tourist? Why do people engage in this sort of sport tourism? Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered.

If You Build It… Of course, not every community in the United States is located near a five-star resort with a championship golf course or an 85,000-seat stadium. However, the realization that sport, whether active-, spectator-, or nostalgia-based, attracts visitors is important for communities wishing to stimulate their tourism industry. Leisure researchers in the United Kingdom have been aware of the potential of public sport facilities since the early 1980s (Glyptis, 1982). In 1988, the Sports Council (a U. K.

Government Agency) suggested that tourist-area swimming pools and “leisure centres” (indoor sports facilities) be designed with the needs of the tourist in mind. Glyptis (1991) suggests, however, that sport and tourism, while intricately linked in the minds of the participants, have traditionally been treated as separate spheres by practitioners, government agencies, and academics. Thus, while the individual tourist has long been engaged in sport tourism, sport and tourism providers have been slow to recognize this market segment.

Communities in the United States have gradually begun to recognize the potential for attracting different types of sport tourists. Many communities now have sport commissions whose role is to attract sports events to their towns and cities. Indeed, the National Association of Sports Commissions is an organization that holds workshops for its members on marketing sports events, liability issues associated with sports events, and the economic impact of sports events. Convention and visitors bureaus have also begun to realize the potential.

Whether they are involved in coordinating the accommodations for sports events in their communities or acting as a resource by providing literature, these groups are becoming involved in promoting sport tourism, making their presence felt at conventions such as George Washington University’s Teaming for Success: A Forum on Sport Tourism, and the Sports Tourism Marketing Conference, which is hosted by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism and Illinois State University. As yet, however, there has only been minimal evidence that park and recreation departments have recognized their potential to attract sports tourists to their communities.

Many annual events and facilities staged and operated by municipal park and recreation departments are tailor-made for sports tourists. Municipal swimming, golf, and tennis facilities; organized races; bicycle races; and regattas are all potential attractions for the sport tourist. As with all community efforts, the task is partnering. While some community agencies may already be attracting sport tourists, they may only be thinking of one type of sport tourist: the event spectator.

Marketing municipal sports facilities and events to tourists may attract the active sport tourist to a community. Some communities may even have attractions — such as famous stadiums, sports museums, or sports halls of fame — to draw nostalgia sport tourists. Glyptis (1991) suggests that local governments should take the lead in coordinating the roles of potential sport tourism providers. As sport tourism becomes more prominent, sports commissions, municipal park and recreation departments, convention and visitors bureaus, and other interested groups need to coordinate their efforts.

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