Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Should Jamaica go after Major Sporting Events?

As the world is being battered by the current economic recession, governments are seeking new and innovative ways to earn well-needed funds and to also provide jobs.

What then could help to boost Jamaica's economy? I say we go after two major sporting events over the next three to five years. These major events could attract

Foreign-exchange income for the country

International media attention

Temporary jobs for residents

Opportunities for other residents to volunteer.

Over the next five years, World Track and Field championship is in Berlin (August 2009), World Cup Football, South Africa (July 2010) and Summer Olympic Games, London, (2012) are just some of the major events to take place; but there will be need for preparation tournaments and championships prior to these events.

I see where the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) is about to host a USA and Jamaica bonanza; that would grab some attention, generating some well-needed funds. Also with Jamaica out of World Cup football, could we create a football festival where top teams (countries or clubs) can participate?

Also, could the cricket body look at its schedule over the next three years and see where a three/four nation five-day tournament could fit in.

Several news stories recently have shown where countries and states are moving towards sport tourism as an option, with the latest being Hawaii and also Thailand. One of the common reasons was "people need to feel good".

Last month, the Hawaii Tourism Authority voted to allow the NFL's Pro Bowl game to return to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. The game has been held the week after the Super Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu since 1980, and has sold out every time.

JTB should see sport as a priority

Can the Jamaica Tourist Board work closer with the sporting federations to create our own sporting festival and throw their weight behind this venture? In light of the recent budget allocations to the industry, I am sure there are creative ways we can spread the money around effectively.

Malta recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Sheffield United and is using that collaboration to promote Malta as a sporting destination. Malta's training facilities, restaurants and other entertainment sites benefit over a two week period along with the media exposure. Malta's athletes also benefit from the technical courses run during this period; while volunteers are used to offer support services.

There are five or more internationally accepted sporting facilities across the island and so Jamaica should look to form relationships which will see countries, clubs and university/college teams come for a week or two to use the facilities, discover Jamaica and compete against our teams.

Let us look at a national football league, major league baseball, UK football club and any university in the US or Canada for starter and host one every half a year. That could generate the interest!

Note: The Jamaican people were the MVP for CHAMPS, April 1 to 4. Well done!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sport tourism and research

Sport-based travel has been a phenomenon for many decades but it has not been on the cards of researchers until recently. It is now a great time to build on the literature available to ensure that economies benefit from the opportunities which are available.

There are a number of things to consider in doing research as we identify the trends in the sport tourism market. First, is the research has to identify sport as an attraction and then develop a series of questions which can be used to highlight the relationship between the sport and tourism and how they can be explored.

Here are some generic questions:

What time of year do these tourists travel?

What are the foods they are likely to consume?

What are the attractions they are likely to visit?

What is the length of stay?

What are the modes of transportation?

Jamaica's situation is peculiar but interesting. Why? The physical layout of the facilities, attractions, beaches, accommodation is perfect, but there is need to package this information attractively enough to woo these new categories of travellers.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) can now take this as a project for the next three to seven years and ensure that a reasonable percentage of the US$4.5-trillion sport tourism industry comes to the Caribbean and more specifically, Jamaica.

UWI's creation in the Caribbean was formed on one basis - that unity and integration are possible. So while some of the more academically-charged efforts are being pursued. The sport tourism phenomenon has to be given time and space. In addition, the curriculum must be adjusted to include courses which will complement the research to be undertaken.

Dr Carolyn Hayle has been instrumental in some initial discussions, and her role on the board of directors for the Jamaica Tourist Board is one where she can make the difference we so desperately need. The collaboration necessary must see UWI teaming with colleges and universities abroad which can offer support. There is credibility in partnership. Research has to drive our new(er) way of thinking and sport tourism is a critical component of the bigger tourism sector, aimed at making major contributions to the economies of developing countries.

Making Jamaica the Next Best Travel Destination

So since there is a recession and we are looking for great ideas, let's refocus some of our energies in who we reach out to. Take China, for example, Jamaica has been an approved destination since 2005. How are we going to get them to come to Jamaica in the numbers which can fill up the coffers? What about the Germans? They have a settlement on the south coast, rebrand it and package it in a way to make it attractive. Let's be our brother's keeper and clean up the crime situation. When all is said and done, no one will come if there is a perception of a crime-ridden society.

Note: Witness the greatest high school show on earth, Kingston, Jamaica, April 1 to 4 ... Boys' and Girls' Championships. It's going to be a cracker!