CASTRIES, St. Lucia – The immense and little recognized value of sports tourism will be a highlight of this week’s fifth anniversary of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), which opens here in Rodney Bay on Thursday.
Caribbean sports specialist Joseph “Reds” Perreira, former sports coordinator of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), said investment in sport was essential and would pay big dividends. He predicted Caribbean countries which had invested heavily in developing sporting infrastructure were the ones who stood to benefit most from the contribution which sports tourism makes to their economies.
The St. Lucia-based Guyanese sports commentator singled out Barbados as the leading Caribbean destination to have excelled in this department, noting authorities there had set the trend for others to follow.
Sports tourism linkages will be examined in St. Lucia during the four day CMEx interactive workshop which has attracted record numbers of delegates from St. Lucia, the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Asia.
This Sunday, October 15 at Bay Gardens Hotel, St. Kitts-based writer Peter Adrien will explore the socio-economic benefits of sports development and sports tourism in a session which also features former Barbados Davis Cup tennis player, Lionel Eli, who is now a leading tennis coach in Canada.
“Sporting infrastructure will certainly drive a country’s sports tourism programme … so OECS countries should improve their infrastructure to include the likes of an indoor auditorium,” said Perreira, who added that this would prove attractive for North America teams especially in the winter season.
He said that while cricket remains the most popular regional sport, other sporting disciplines have earned precious foreign exchange for the St. Lucian economy. Yet said Perreira, OECS countries in general are yet to realize their full potential in this department where opportunities abound especially in the lucrative United Kingdom market.
The nine OECS territories have focused their sports tourism outreach largely on cricket, netball and golf. However Perreira recommends that the islands’ sporting authorities diversify their interests by investing more in beach volleyball facilities which are paying dividends for Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados.
He suggested sporting events such as road races, pre-season training for North American and UK football teams and rugby offered much promise once national associations and sports tourism organizations in the marketplace were re-engaged.