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Another look at our sports tourism package

rhondathompson, [email protected]

Another look  at our sports tourism package

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SPORTS TOURISM, the concept pioneered by Wes Hall (now Sir Wesley) in the late 1980s, has without question served Barbados well over the past 25 years.
As Minister of Tourism and Sports at the time, Hall sought to create a fusion between the two industries that generated tremendous benefits for the island.
The master move brought large numbers of visitors to the island, helped beef up the economy with foreign dollars, offered Barbados exposure beyond its shores and provided a platform for local sportspeople to develop their skills and land further opportunities abroad.
The sports tourism concept was developed at a time when Barbados was staging or had just embarked on a number of sports events with an international flavour, including the Run Barbados series.
As the 30th edition of Run Barbados ended yesterday, it is timely to examine if the sports tourism concept has grown, remained stagnant or declined. We have observed positives and negatives that demand the stakeholders take note.
It is a credit to the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) and others that some of the events are still going after so many years but the reality is that many of them have lost appeal and interest among locals and those who used to make it a habit to come here regularly.
The dropping of the Run Barbados marathon speaks volumes.
The 27th annual Banks Hockey Festival only attracted two overseas teams in August – around the same time that only one team from the United Kingdom competed in the 27th annual Sir Garfield Sobers International Schools’ Cricket Tournament.
We believe somewhere along the line the ball was dropped and no effort was made to take some of these events to a new level, with a drive to make the product more attractive.
Sports is now big business and in the same way other international events elsewhere can command the attention of fans and investors, we must get our act together and catch up with the times.
It was heartening to see when we were able to get world-rated tennis players, including the Williams sisters, to Barbados for Tennis Pon de Rock, which was launched here in 2009, but it came as a disappointment when we learnt last week that the event was put on hold.
When the Cricket Legends of Barbados International (CLOBI) Cup came on stream in 2009 with three international teams joining a West Indies Masters squad, there was the expectation that the tournament would be expanded to include eight teams in future years. The competition has quietly disappeared from the local calendar to put a dent in our sports tourism product.
It is encouraging to see that English county teams, which came to Barbados in years gone by but gradually started to travel to South Africa following the end of apartheid, have started to come back here in recent times for pre-season training.
That represents some progress but we still have a long way to go if we are to truly reap the benefits that can be derived from sports tourism.