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Sports higher on BTA’s list

Justin Marville

Sports higher on BTA’s list

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Sport has moved up the list of tourism’s significant Ss.
The issue of “sun, sea, and sand is really over”, at least for Barbados Tourism Authority president David Rice, who believes the country has to lean more heavily on initiatives like international sporting events to get the edge on the market for tourist arrivals.
Rice expressed the sentiment as the basis for the BTA’s support of the Tennis Pon De Rock festival during last weekend’s Press launch for the exhibition series at the Sugar Hill Resort.
“In these times, as a country, we need to move forward with initiatives which we believe will bring additional visitors to our country,” reasoned Rice, whose board is in its second year of partnership with the festival’s organisers.
“We’re very encouraged to continue these types of initiatives because we understand that they will continue to gain a lot of attention for us.
“Maybe in the first and second year it may not reap the number of visitors that it should, but with the consistency and sustainability of any initiatives such as this we stand to benefit,” he added.
This year, seven-time Grand Slam champ Venus Williams is tabbed as the series’ major drawing card, which also includes women’s No. 3 Victoria Azarenka and fellow top-rated players Gael Monfils and John Isner.
Williams’ younger sister Serena and current women’s No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki proved to be big hits for the inaugural exhibition two years ago.
“When you look at sports tourism, I don’t think that Barbados stands alone. Every country recognises that sports tourism is a major earner of foreign exchange,” said BTA sports manager Gregory Armstrong.
“I think we are very well placed. This product is a very good one; I don’t want to say it’s the premier but it’s a very good product.
“In partnering with BITE (Barbados Invitational Tennis Exhibition) to stage this event, I think it’s what I would consider a major accomplishment.
“We will work with them to ensure the longevity of this tournament,” he added.
The exhibition series reached further international status after broadcast network giant ESPN signed on for a multi-year deal to broadcast the festival tape-delayed worldwide.
BITE director Kodi Lewis also revealed the possibility of further expansion next year as former great Ivan Lendl has expressed interest in playing against a fellow legend for future engagements.