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THE ISSUE – Review strategy for viable sector


Natasha Beckles

THE ISSUE – Review strategy for viable sector

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THE ISSUE: What needs to be done to fully exploit business opportunities in sports and are we making use of the options?
 
SPORT?ISN’T?ONLY about fun and games. 
Although its value to Barbados’ economy is not known, the United States sports industry is estimated to be worth US$213 billion – twice as much as its automotive industry and seven times more than its motion picture industry.
In the May 17, 2010 BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY Barbados Tourism Authority board member Senator Peter Gilkes noted that in spite of its small size, Barbados has emerged over the years as a leader in Caribbean sports as well as a world beater in some disciplines and is regarded as a leader in sports tourism in the region. 
“The number of world-class sportsmen and women produced on the island over the years – particularly in cricket, bodybuilding, and horse racing – has been legendary, particularly when the size of its population is considered. 
“But while Barbados, as a renowned tourism destination, has also gained global recognition over the years as a sporting destination and a venue to recharge for several global sporting icons, the country as a whole has not been able to fully leverage and exploit the economic benefits associated with this international exposure,” he said.
Gilkes noted that successive Governments have recognized the importance of the island’s having world-class sporting facilities and the potential for fusing sports and tourism; but besides cricket, it can be argued that not enough has been done in a strategic and deliberate way to reap the rewards of sports tourism. 
“It is against this background that the David Thompson administration has been moving to embrace a wider range of activities and deliberately place more emphasis on sports tourism, which is regarded as the fastest growing sector in the global travel and tourism industry,” he added. 
According to international reports, sports tourism generated US$600 billion globally in 2008 and accounted for ten per cent of the international tourism market. 
By attracting mega events such as the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup, Gilkes said, the economies of cities, regions and countries are increasingly relying on combining sport and tourism to jump-start economic and socio-economic change. 
This is because visitors engaged in sports tourism tend to spend more, stay longer than other types of visitors, be high-calibre, and often stimulate other tourism. 
Their direct benefit to a destination is cash, while their indirect benefit can be years of follow-on tourists. Meanwhile, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) president Colin Jordan called for greater collaboration between the sports and tourism industries. 
According to the July 26, 2010 BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, he said the fact that the 2010 Twenty/20 Cricket World Cup tournament kept Barbados’ tourism arrivals from languishing in the first half of 2010 was proof of the importance of sports to Barbados’ tourism offerings. 
Central Bank of Barbados Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell confirmed in his review of the economic performance of the first six months of last year that “the hosting of the World Twenty/20 cricket tournament in May boosted arrival numbers sufficiently to turn around what would have otherwise been a contraction in long-stay visitors”. 
“The Women’s World Boxing Championship scheduled for September, the worst month for tourism normally, is just perfect placement because it fills in a gap. It is that collaboration that is important. It brings in groups,” Jordan said, illustrating how sporting events could garner tourism dollars. 
“The year of the [Cricket] World Cup, one of the things we were saying was that the organizers needed to sit [down] with the tourism players in terms of the scheduling because I remember that one of the issues was that some of the World Cup [events] would be in February and that would have diluted other business,” Jordan said. 
He pointed to the recent Sir Garfield Sobers International Schools Cricket Tournament that brought in teams from around the world. 
“It also brings in some of their parents. It also has the potential to create future guests,” he said.
In the November 8, 2009 SUNDAY SUN, then Minister of Family, Youth and Sports Esther Byer-Suckoo said money spent on sport is not a gamble. 
“Sport has not really so far attracted as much of the financial support as we would have liked to see for [its] development. . . ,” she said. 
“And it is even more challenging in the economic times that we face now where we [the Government] have to be very particular about our Budget, our spending and where we focus our attention,” she added. 
“But I have been making the point . . . that money spent in sport is not a gamble. I think there was a feeling one time that if you had extra money, you could put [it] to sport but I don’t think we can see sport as frivolously as that anymore. Sport has the potential to be a major sector of our economy,” the minister said.
She said the sports industry could grow by investing in other sporting facilities and/or developing sports for tourists – where local coaches could teach tourists sports – and sports tourism. That would involve teams visiting Barbados and hosting related events like annual general meetings, conferences, and off-season practice. 
In addition, then acting Minister of Tourism Senator Haynesley Benn said Barbados stood to gain significant foreign exchange if some sportspeople seized the opportunity to turn their exploits into cash. 
Noting that professional sports were a billion-dollar global business, he suggested that they had evolved from more than a competition among interested athletes. 
“There are myriad opportunities for Barbados to use its sports talent and infrastructure to earn foreign exchange for the country. In fact, there are also opportunities for developing the specialization of offering overseas sportspersons training facilities in Barbados during the winter season,” he observed in the January 18, 2010 DAILY NATION. 
“These opportunities should not be underestimated. We need to review all the possibilities as a body and see what benefit Barbados can gain. 
“But it must be acknowledged [that] like everything else in life, the existing potential will come to nought if there is no plan to upgrade facilities to the required international standards or to collaborate effectively among ourselves when arrangements are being put in place to welcome teams from overseas,” he said.

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