Sports Tourism: What it is and Why it’s Important

Sports tourism: the fastest growing segment within the travel industry today.

Defining Sports Tourism

In a broad sense, sports tourism is any traveling that is done to participate in a sporting event – including just watching. As long as a sport (soccer, baseball, golf, football, cricket, volleyball) is the primary reason for one’s travels, it can be considered sports tourism.

This particular category within sports tourism is where a person or persons travels to a select recreation center, or sports complex, to actively participate in a sporting event. That could be anything from a senior racquetball tournament for retired couples, to little Johnny’s travel basketball team flying to Puerto Rico for a select invitational (somewhere in the middle is your typical weekend soccer tournament).

Wintergreen Research, Inc has valued the youth sports tourism industry at $15.8 billion and has projected it to double in size in the next few years. As such, it is widely stated that we are currently experiencing a ‘boom’ of new content providers, destinations, and communities looking to tap into the economic development potential of sports tourism.

Why Sports Tourism is Important

Aside from the obvious and vast benefits of travel, sports tourism is great for the economy for one simple reason: it generates economic impact through direct spending into a community. 

Sports tourism is a rapidly growing niche in the travel/tourism industry. In fact, we at Sports Facilities Advisory share the belief that it is the fastest growing segment within the travel industry today. From weekend tournaments, to a weekend getaway in March to see the Royals take on the Padres in Arizona, this kind of tourism brings in tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of viewers. And guess what? Those people need to eat, and they need places to stay (probably a good souvenir, too). That means more money to hotels, restaurants, sports facilities, and gift-shops alike.

Last year alone, SFM hosted more than 20 million visitors in our sports facilities, many of which were for the purpose of sports tourism. Rocky Top Sports World just closed the ‘books’ on their 2017-2018 season and reported a whopping $45.7 million dollars in economic impact – significantly outperforming the original projections.

How to Start A Sports Tourism Complex

Starting a new sports tourism complex starts with a vision and quickly moves into understanding the opportunity in the community. If the location, market demand, and other factors are primed, cities of all sizes are able to take advantage of the economic development of sports tourism. A feasibility report, financial forecast, and market opportunity report are all critical to understanding and evaluating the opportunity. Another critical element to planning a successful complex is to cultivate a unified perspective between the local citizens, project stakeholders, and the city or county.