EDITORIAL: Plug for sports tourism
LAST WEEKEND the English Test team and thousands of ardent followers descended on the “Mecca” of Caribbean cricket, Kensington Oval, where their West Indian counterparts valiantly defended what pride they have been able to muster in recent times and pulled off a spectacular victory.
While Test cricket has lost significant ground to the established 50-overs form of the game, and in recent years has lost even more to the fast-food version known as Twenty20, what occurred at the Oval just days ago demonstrated that the five-day version still holds major favour with fans around the world.
We are not talking about cricket per se right now, but about sports tourism and its potential for a positive impact on our economy as a year-round staple. We accept that it would be challenging, perhaps near impossible, to offer scenarios like what unfolded recently at the oval and beyond – nearly 5 000 excited fans consuming beer by the gallon and stuffing themselves full of any local fare they could find in St Lawrence Gap, Oistins Beer Garden and elsewhere – as a routine.
The fillip for the local hotel and restaurant sector would have been highly appreciated across the board and we are sure many would wish to see it occur every month.
While such an expectation might be grander than we are able to manage, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t take greater advantage of sports tourism by investing more in it.
Our tourism planners must be able to engage the appropriate talent in source markets to arrange tourism/sports tournaments and other events that taken together can each month rival a Test match of the type just witnessed.
Certainly if we are willing to make the “investment” we can get a lot more from involvement in Caribbean Premier League cricket each year, as one example.
In the same vein, if we sensibly execute some of the “plans” we have been mouthing for years as they relate to track and field we are sure that we can inject fresh life into our regional tourism portfolio.
However, we can’t do it with a 50-year-old stadium that’s falling apart, where patrons sit on concrete slabs in the sun and rain.
Through private sector investment and sensible Government collaboration the island has seen the racing circuit in St Philip transformed into a world-class motor sports venue. Since then it has played host to some huge names in international motor racing.
Again with the right approach, including a deliberate national effort to heal the rift between rival organisations in the fraternity, the island should be able to develop
a series of annual events with the capacity to attract both regional and international participants in large numbers.
In many respects it is clear we have given up the lead we once boldly held in the area of sailing and game fishing to some of our closest neighbours, but it is not beyond us to take it back – all we have to do is demonstrate the will to so do.
In essence we are confident that a series of well-coordinated and marketed events involving a range of sports spread over a year, but with emphasis on the traditional low season for tourism, could do wonders for our annual tourism arrivals and provide a boost for our economy.
Our tourism pioneers have built a Barbados brand that is world recognised and those who now hold the reins must take it to the next level.