While the pundits are painting a dim outlook for travel and leisure, they are not painting an overall dim picture for 2009. One of the bright sparks about the tourism pie is Sport Tourism, which the same experts are predicting, will remain consistent as in former years.
The expected growth for that sector remains at 10 per cent per annum according to KPMG at least for the next seven years.
The question is, Can Jamaica aggressively promote the island as a sport tourism destination? Ireland plans to spend €86 million on what is called “national, lifestyle and general interest” areas, hoping to attract a higher number of sport tourists to its shores.
What then is Jamaica’s plan? How that can piece of the pie be had in these harsh economic times? I guess it calls from some creativity and innovation, with the budget to match.
The country had a few products which helped in promoting the island as a sport tourist destination and were satisfactory in 2008. The Jakes and Rose Hall triathlons, the Reggae Marathon were just some of the few events on the calendar. There was interest in the National Track and Field Championships with Usain Bolt’s entrée into the 100 metres fray; but only the hard core came to watch. We may have attracted a few more television viewers.
Focus on Trelawny Multi Purpose Complex (TMPC)
One attraction owner said “We need to market the TMPC as an ideal location for spring training for American baseball and football teams. Its proximity to hotels and good beaches should make it an easy sell to the major baseball and football teams in North America. The economic benefits/spin-offs would be immediate - including the attendant press coverage for the country.”
Also, we need to develop more of the sport which will draw participants and TV coverage. Oh how I pray for the day when top-class golf competitions will return to this country. How much harder are we going to have to work to convince a major sponsor that Jamaica is the place for golf? The Tryall Golf Club needs to get back to its glory days.
The Jamaica Tourist Board could do more in the use of the slogan “Once you go, you know” for sports, leisure, music, food, etc. Do an ad campaign to include our athletes for a superstar event. You may recall I recommended this sometime before.
So I am voting for more non-traditional events
• Cross country cycling (will force the National Works Agency to fix the roads)
• Mountain climbing
• Any form of extreme sport (will attract the college crowd)
• Superstar obstacle races
• An additional triathlon, in the spring (for the athletes on spring break, in time for 2010)
Jamaica experienced the most successful year at the Summer Olympic Games, which was held in Beijing this past summer. The 11-medals haul, with six gold medals was a superb feat by any standard. The world’s eyes have been on us and the conversations will continue for a long time.
Along with the individual athletes, Jamaica has also been able to maintain prime spots in the international media and now the expectations, like that of Barack Obama are HIGH.
What will Berlin bring for Bolt and company? That too is something to look forward to. The opportunities are endless; the creative skills exist. And the financial support can be found.
The prospects are good for Jamaica for 2009 and beyond.