Sports Tourism: A Hit For Six

By: Bevan Springer

NEW YORK – While the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup may have helped economic expansion, boosted infrastructure investment and furthered functional cooperation across the region, many in the tourism circles did not reap the kind of dividends they expected from the sporting spectacle because of the unexpected early defeat and exit of major cricketing nations such as India and Pakistan and the absence of traditional winter visitors many of whom who chose to stay away from the Caribbean during the Cup’s staging.

Nevertheless, the Caribbean has been left with an awesome opportunity to market state-of-the-art sporting facilities to a booming international sports tourism community during the cricket season and beyond if we are to capitalize on the millions of dollars that have been invested in them.

Carole Beckford, writing in the Jamaica press, said international bodies have long realized the value of sport to tourism and the money it can take into developing countries. “Jamaica should therefore decide to host major sporting events in the future only on the following bases: To ensure the continuing economic and lifestyle values for local communities. The importance of building both quality and sustainability standards to meet all patrons’ expectations and to make use of current facilities and infrastructure. The intense global media and Internet exposure that can affect a country’s tourism competitiveness, its visitor appeal and its entire international image. (And) the increasing public interest and the specific interest around travel to major sporting events. When we are able to achieve all four of the objectives listed above then we are good to go.”

According to St. Lucian author Peter Adrien, “Sport Tourism calls for a paradigm shift in our conception and development of sports in the Caribbean. And this new vision must become part and parcel of our personal, national and regional development vision. Policy makers must clearly define the role of recreational and commercial sports in the development strategy. The first is an imperative, and forms an integral part of the program for building a harmonious and productive society, and lays the foundation for the successful growth of the political and economic systems, while the second is selective and targeted towards foreign exchange earning.”

The St. Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB) and more recently the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) have made some major inroads into tapping into the expatriate markets of cricketing playing nations living in North America by wooing them to come to the Caribbean.

Before the Cricket World Cup last year, the SLTB, along with Cricket World Cup St. Lucia Inc., hit the road to tap West Indians, Kenyans and New Zealanders living in North America to entice them to visit the Caribbean for cricket.

Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Chief Executive Officer of Cricket World Cup, St. Lucia Inc. said at the time that cricket “is a celebration of life, it’s the way we, as West Indians, love living. It’s not about sitting down in a stadium and clapping for every four and every wicket. It’s about liming the night before, fêting just before the match, celebrating during the match, and of course liming and fêting after the match.”

And just last week, Barbados invited cricketing legends Wes Hall and Joel Garner to promote the upcoming Australian tour of the West Indies to upwardly mobile Australian professionals in New York and Philadelphia.

“We (had) not won a game against anyone of consequence for (several) years. (A few) months ago, we won a test match against South Africa. We (then) won a test match against Sri Lanka and (recently) completed a 2-0 (victory over) Sri Lanka in the One Days. I am saying that that cricketing U-Turn is sufficient to make me believe that this is going to be a wonderful series. Australians must not come (to the Caribbean) thinking (they) are the undisputed champions of the world and it is not worth coming. It is worth coming. (And) I want you to be there to see that fantastic turnaround (when) the West Indies beats Australia!” Hall told a jovial Manhattan audience.

These kind of promotional opportunities must be embraced and kudos must be extended to the BTA’s Business Development Manager, Diana Clarke, the visionary behind the event, for coordinating an engaging Caribbean evening, featuring local cuisine and musical entertainment by Adrian Clarke, a Barbadian steel pan player who himself is a former Caribbean tennis champion and cricketing enthusiast.

From cricket to tennis to boxing to religious events, the opportunities are endless for Caribbean countries.

This week, the Cayman Islands announced that Goossen Tutor Promotions, in association with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, will present “Cayman Knockout: Championship Boxing” on June 20, 2008 to be televised on SHOWTIME’s “SHOBOX: The New Generation.”

This follows the successful staging of “SHOWTIME In Paradise” in St. Lucia last November when 2004 US Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward defeated Native American challenger Roger Cantrell in one of several fights that thrilled a full house at the Beausejour Cricket Ground.

We are only scratching the surface here folks – let’s get to work so we can be good to go.

Bevan Springer

Bevan Springer, the Director of Counterpart International’s Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), is a journalist and communications advisor.

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