Friday, May 2, 2008

Sports tourism is good for the Caribbean

Bevan Springer
Friday, May 02, 2008

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 capitalise 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.

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