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!