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The Impact of Sports Tourism & Future Trends – Opinion

Opinion by Akis Tsolis*, CEO of Active Media Group

What is Sports Tourism’s connection with Wellness?

Sports events are becoming a major driver of economic development globally.

Global management consultants, AT Kearney, have estimated that the industry is worth around USD 620 billion. That figure represents a significant portion of the USD 4.5 trillion estimated value of the tourism industry as a whole.

Sports tourism is a viable pathway for generating visitor spending and promoting a destination’s local attractions and outlying districts.

Why Sports Tourism is important

Aside from the obvious and vast benefits of travel, sports tourism is great for the economy for one simple reason: it generates economic impact through direct spending into a community.

Sports tourism is a rapidly growing niche in the travel/tourism industry.

In fact, we at ActiveMedia Group share the belief that it is the fastest growing segment within the travel industry today, generating billions of dollars every year.

From weekend races, to golf tournaments, to a weekend getaway in October to swim in Santorini next to the Volcano or run a half marathon in the famous Voidokoilia beach, this kind of tourism brings in tens of thousands of spectators. And guess what? Those people need to eat, and they need places to stay (probably a good souvenir, too). That means more money to hotels, restaurants, sports facilities, and gift-shops alike.

Sports tourism is a vast international business attracting investment, political interest, media attention and thousands of traveling participants and spectators. The estimated USD 800 million spend on sports tourism represents close to 10 percent of all tourism-related earnings (UNWTO 2016).

Sport is big business

Cities and nations wager millions to stage sporting events such as a World Cup, the Olympics or the UEFA Champions League Final. In return, cities expect millions more from sponsors, developers and visitors. The estimated size of the global sport industry is $1.7 trillion (Plunkett Research Group).

Global sponsorship spending grew 4.6% in 2016 to $60.1 billion, according to IEG, a sponsorship consultancy company (ESP Properties, 2017) while in 2019 Global brand spend on sports sponsorship in 2019 will grow 4% !!

People are travelling & they love sports

So Sport is big business and people are travelling a lot. Around 1.8 billion international tourists are expected to travel by 2030 (international tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018 UNWTO).

According to the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC, 2015), visitor spending associated with sport tourism in the United States was $8.96 billion, with 25.65 million sport visitors. Furthermore, sport tourism accounts for 25% of all tourism receipts, rising to as much as 55% in Australia and parts of New Zealand.

Wellness Tourism

Like all other sectors of the world economy, tourism is also feeling the pinch of the crisis that has resulted from the global economic turmoil. World economic situation since 2007/2008 has put an extra pressure on people’s psycho-physical state of health. People are increasingly looking forward to new ways of relaxation and re-energizing themselves. Some modes of tourism, globally, due to the economic downturn, have slowed down, but the tourism sector itself has done remarkably well during the last two-three years by offering the new model i.e. facility generally called Wellness. Within tourism, wellness is relatively a new trend that has registered an impressive growth rate (twice growth from general tourism). World-wide more and more people are traveling to destinations that provide wellness facilities.

A recent study says that international wellness travellers spend around 65 per cent more than regular travellers, with top source countries currently Europe and North America, with growth expected to be driven by Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. There are overlaps too with other niche tourism segments such as cultural tourism, eco-tourism, culinary and sports tourism, which makes sense.

Actually, we believe that this tourism cluster in the field of Sports and health is the only way to offer a complete package to your customers.

As sport tourism continues to gain momentum across the world, it opens up innovation avenues which can help improve the quality of life in different communities.

Now in Greece we have an average of more than five sports events per weekend through the whole year. Running, swimming are among the most popular events and then sailing & bike follows.

Golf is another sector very popular in Europe and even if we have the best two European Pro-Am tournaments in Greece we are still struggling in this sector. The first step though is the golf courses. The second is to understand the age of Golf.

Since as an agency we have been close to golf events since 2011 with Messinia Pro-Am, Aegean Pro-Am, Elounda Pro-Am, Hellenic-Turkish Friendship Golf Cup, we can say very honestly that GOLF IS NOT TOO OLD.

The 73% of UK Wealth (more than 10 trillion) comes from people over 50 years old. One out of 5 babyboomers (born 1946-1964) are millionaires.

The world changed.

When you go back in 1990, there were more than 500 million people in the world over 60 – now there is a billion. These are people with disposable income.

I am not saying we’re not going to target [the younger generations], but we can’t forget in Golf the core.

We need to do the same in sports tourism or wellness tourism (the global wellness economy is a $4.2 trillion market). Especially now that people are ready to live new adventures, new experiences.

A vacation is a safe place to try new things because the whole experience of travel is about new discoveries, so sports tourism is about exploring and discovering ways of life that give you a new way of life. Ultimately, we travel to be inspired. We want to connect, to relax, to give back, and to give in.

Be a traveler rather than a tourist. Specially nowadays that travel is more environmentally friendly, supports the protection of cultural and natural heritage, and provides social and economic benefits to local people – when making travel decisions, they say it is Millennials (1980s & 1990s) who are leading the charge (Virtuoso 2018).

A 2018 survey of US women identified that 73% of women felt that travel makes them stronger. Now, 75% of cultural, adventure and nature travelers are female.

Wonder if we can meet some or all these trends or even more somewhere in Greece? In Navarino Challenge with more than 7.500 participants & visitors, the 44% are women participating in more than 30 sport activities!!

Moreover, these events create a “crowding-in effect” – sport enthusiasts bring with them not so sportive family members, who can enjoy the non-sportive side of the venue.

This is not a USA or Greek phenomenon. The 67% (2 out 3) of German Travelers said that they want to do sport activities during vacations.

As sport tourism continues to gain momentum across the world, it opens up innovation avenues which can help improve the quality of life in different communities.

Last but not least there will be more channels of Tourism growing with great investing like the Luxury Travel. There is no clear definition for luxury tourism; it mainly includes qualitative services and products provided to the visitors in a convenient and extraordinary way. It is too soon to focus on these channels in Greece. The Asian luxury visitor for example is very different from the ones with European or American origin.

As researches, trends and above all numbers show us there is a huge economic potential in Sports Tourism.

Sports tourism is a trend that’s not going away and is expected to continue growing. With sports tourism & wellness travelers found to be very high-spending, high-yield tourists, there is huge potential for businesses who want to appeal to this market, creating experiences that enlighten the senses and feed the soul.

Fortunately, because of Greece’s wonderful landscape and history with all these great Ancient Greek Philosophers we can definitely say that sports & wellness tourism is on our DNA.


* Akis Tsolis is the CEO of Active Media Group (Public Relations and Communications) and has been dealing with Sports Tourism since 2012. Among his many activities, Akis has contributed to the planning and implementation of successful projects such as the Navarino Challenge and the Santorini Experience.

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  1. Juan Alfredo Escobar Reply

    Sports in forms of tourism is the future of travelers..

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