“Memo to Tourism Leaders: Time to Double Down on Sports”
Dear Tourism Leaders,
As sports tourism professionals, we know the value of this market to the destinations and organizations we work alongside. Today we write to you to make the case to use sports tourism as a way to push through the challenging times that are upon us.
Depending who you listen to, the youth sports travel market is worth between $15 and $18 billion annually in our country. The consistent growth of our industry over the past 20 years is unprecedented. There are more communities investing in sports tourism marketing than ever before (more than 550 as members of SportsETA, formerly the NASC, at last count). The sports tourism industry is relatively immune to market trends. Our industry grew after 9/11. It grew during the recession of 2008 to 2010. These factors have led many of your organizations (CVBs, sports commissions, cities, or counties) to pursue the growing and stable business that has been sports tourism.
While today’s reality is different for us all, the facts of the matter have not changed. Our vertical is more resilient than any other tourism sector. Here is why we should be puttingsports tourism in focus.
- This past week, we surveyed over 50 tourism organizations and asked them one simple question – “What percentage of the tourism business that is booked in your community is related to sports.” The average answer? 54%. The fact that our segment of the tourism industry is (and has been) driving a large part of the business to your destinations cannot be ignored.
- Sports event organizers book in shorter windows than any other tourism sector. Thus, these partners will be able to drive your destination business faster when this pandemic comes to an end.
- Sports event organizers make multi-year commitments more often than the other tourism sectors. This means your sports partners can not only book soon, but they can book often, filling your future pipeline and delivering value to your hospitality industry partners.
- Hosting sporting events offers far more exposure for a destination. Sporting competitions, even the smaller ones, often bring with them vast social media followings and also deliver promotion through traditional media outlets. This type of “earned media” is something that very few can afford to buy.
The points we have outlined above are the business case for why tourism leaders across the country need to carefully evaluate the decisions that are in front of them. Across the board cuts without considering who can drive business back to our communities sooner rather than later would be short sighted. Above and beyond the business case, there are additional factors as to why we need to keep investing in the sports market.
- Sustaining a high level of health and wellness in our country is mission critical for us as a society. Sports tourism plays a huge role in this for our kids and our families. If you don’t have anyone in place to help facilitate bringing tournaments to your destination (due to staff cuts), when the pandemic is over, your local teams will have to travel to gain access to solid competitions. Further, with the high level of competition in the sports tourism market, if you don’t continue to compete for these events, even during this unprecedented time, one of those other 550 cities will gladly seize that business.
- Sports has a higher level of social impact on our country than most anything else. Sports connects us, it gets us through troubling times in our local communities and across the nation. Sports will be the connective tissue that brings us all out of this just like it has done in times of war, during 9/11, and through multiple economic downturns.
The business case along with the positive social aspects of the sports tourism industry point to sustaining our investment in sports tourism today. Tourism leaders need to double down on an important market – sports. The destinations that will come out of this the strongest will be the ones that protect their sports assets today. They will keep their staff on board to reschedule postponed events and to book new ones for 2021 and beyond. They will keep their sports marketing budgets intact, so our sports tourism professionals can continue to pursue new business in the near term to drive value back to our hospitality partners who are in dire need of our help.
Today is a day for perspective. Yes, changes need to take place, and we need to make smart decisions for our organizations. Today we implore tourism industry leaders to look deep at where their business comes from and to double down on a market that generates the most social and economic impact for your communities – SPORTS.
Hope you all have a great week ahead, and that you all choose to double down on sports tourism.
Yours in Sport,
Founder + CEO
Huddle Up Group