Tourism in Sports

June 28, 2008

The world of sports is certainly a lucrative one, giving the recognition being placed on it, whether as a barometer of human progress, a showcase of indomitable human spirit, or simply, a chance to earn bragging rights on an international or regional platform.

This is further exemplified by how numerous countries have invested money into building up their burgeoning sports industries, amplified more so by the efforts and incentives of the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) in attracting foreign talent to Singapore, as well as the carrot being dangled in front of our sportsmen as motivation for them to perform.

The number of sporting events which capture global attention is countless, with the Summer Olympics, World Cup, Euro Championships and Commonwealth Games being some of the few large scale events with a lot of hoohaa attached.

The prestige of hosting a major sporting event has therefore grown leaps and bounds over the years, as a nation welcomes the best athletes from around the world for approximately a month of friendly competition. The benefits are boundless – a chance to build political ties and to gain recognition, as well as the promising tourism revenue which is bound to come along.

The onus lies with the host country to invest hefty sums of revenue to refurbish pre-existing infrastructure, as well as to construct new systems and to erect supportive tourism promotion campaigns so as to ensure the successful execution of the event.

Euro 2008 logoVia Euro 2008, Austria and Switzerland is bound to reap rewards from the European fans that are expected to descend on the countries during the championships, with an estimate of $358 million gained by the Swiss economy and $369 million gained by the Austrian economy. In Austria alone, overnight bookings have hit the 2-million mark during the campaign, which is well above the usual rates for the month of June, while almost 11,000 temporary jobs have been created to cope with the visitor influx.

However, while it may still be too early to tell, things do not look especially rosy for the upcoming Beijing Summer Olympics and Singapore’s Formula One Night Race.

Both events have been in the news lately in the run-up till the kick-off of the events.

The Beijing Games have been fraught with controversy surrounding the Chinese-Tibetan rule and the subsequent exile of the Daila Lama, and as a result, an unprecedented spotlight was shone on the global torch relay.

Formula One Grand Prix posterThe Singapore Formula One Night Race has been vigorously marketed as a world’s first-ever F1 night race.

Yet, recent reports have shown that the Formula One hotel booking is looking sluggish, while there is no sign of Olympic boom for Beijing hotels.

So, what ticks and what does not?

In the case of the Beijing Games, fingers are being pointed at wildly inflated prices within the country in view of the impending games despite a global economic slump, tighter visa regulations (ironically to keep out excessive visitors, a plan which has since proven to backfire), as well as possible anti-Chinese sentiments in the wake of the deadly Tibetan rioting. Tourism figures have dropped by 12.5% comparing May this year to a year ago.

As for Singapore, it is speculated that the sluggish outcome is a result of escalated hotel rates, especially for the hotels surrounding the race track, so much so that hotels have started pushing down their prices. But seriously, could there be an over-estimation for the demand? Ardent F1 fans would have snapped up grandstand tickets when ticketing sales first open. And, who would want to watch miniature-sized cars zoom by at a fraction of a second from, say, the thirtieth floor? Where is the kick in that?

The sciences behind generating revenue during a major sporting event may not be that simple, but the works are easy – for money to be earned, people have to come, and apart from placing too much focus and reliance on the sports itself, perhaps there is also a need to sell the country per se as well.