Mega and small scale sport tourism has the potential to contribute to the social, cultural, economic and infrastructural development of the host country or city. Sport tourism involves the travel of persons for non-business reasons to participate and or observe sporting activities (Hall, 1992).
Mega sporting events include the hosting of World Cups for such sports such as football, cricket, and rugby. Small scale sporting events include triathlons, marathons and a leg of the formula one grand prix.
According to Zauhar (2003) sport tourism involves a number of activities. In addition to either participating and or observing sporting events, persons who travel for sport tourism may also have a vested interest in visiting state of the art sporting facilities such as stadiums.
These may include for example, Lords cricket ground in England, Roland Garros in Paris, Maracana Stadium in Brazil and the Millennium rugby stadium in Wales. In addition to the iconic sporting stadiums appeal, sport tourists may also show an interest in sporting hall of fames and sport museums such as the Legends of Barbados cricket museum.
Sport tourists may not always be interested in traditional competitive sports and may find adventurous activities far more inviting and appealing to their leisure taste. Some of these adventurous activities may include bungee jumping stations, zip line canopy tours, hiking trails, water adventures such snorkeling and golf.
Sport tourism offers several economic benefits to local communities, the region and or the country. An estimated 680,000 persons from overseas attended the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. These visitors generated enormous economic activity through different forms of expenditure on sporting and non-sporting activities. There was an increased demand for various forms of accommodation—hotels and guest houses.
Similarly there was an increase in demand for sporting paraphernalia such replica tee shirts, sneakers etc. Non-sporting products expenditure included food, beverages, phones, cameras, and other electronic accessories that are associated with travelers. According to Hassen (2003) the 2003 Cricket World generated 1.3 billion Rands for the South African economy.
Sport tourism provides the host country with high media coverage. This coverage will cover not only the sporting event but also provide important information about the country’s cultural and entertainment locations as well as an overall country profile.
Such information would have been provided when the Caribbean played host to two cricket world cups in 2007 and 2010 respectively. Additionally, Trinidad and Tobago would have benefitted from the media coverage when it hosted the 2001 FIFA U17 World Cup for boys and the 2010 FIFA World Cup for girls.
Mega and small sporting events not only offer athletes and officials opportunities to establish strong social bonds but also allow sport tourists the opportunity to forge long lasting social connections with persons from host cities and countries. These bonds have the potential to result in future travels between countries and so deepening the benefits of tourism.
According to Morrison (2005) mega sporting events provide a platform to incorporate social and cultural features of the host community/city/country into the overall tourist experience. These events are good occasions to showcase the cultural heritage of the country such as its history, historical sites, food, music, art, architecture, and overall what makes the host unique and interesting to want to return in the immediate future.
Sport tourism does not only result from the visiting and expenditure from tourists but also involves the development of local infrastructure such as stadia, hotels, transportation networks, roads, telecommunication, airports and other infrastructure. Such developments will provide long term benefits to communities where they have been established.
The potential benefits of sports tourism can only be realised if several challenges are overcome especially in the developing world. In countries where crime and matters of security are a major concern persons considering to travel to these destination maybe discouraged to engage in any form of sport tourism.
Additionally, the allegations of corruption and financial scandals may also serve as a discouragement.
The overall success of any sporting tourism event is dependent upon management. Poor management due to financial impropriety, poor planning, lack of efficient customer service, and a host of other management’s drawbacks may serve as a major Achilles heel for the success of any sport tourism event.
According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (2011) sport tourism has the potential to being powerful tool for development and progress. However, for this to be accomplished to reap the benefits of sports tourism proper planning and management of events have to be undertaken.