Most people like sports. They grow up playing sports or participating in athletics and some eventually play professionally. Others play sports like golf for business or pleasure. Some play sports as amateurs but do so because they love the game like our local rugby teams.
There are many people around the world who love to go and watch sports. Many sports fans travel around the country, continent and even around the world in order to watch or play their favourite sport.
Sports tourism plays a significant role in tourism globally and also locally. Athletes from abroad come to Kenya to train, for holiday or even to carry out charity activities. Kenya brings in quite a few tourism dollars from sports, from the marathons like Lewa Marathon, the Standard Chartered Marathon, to Safari Sevens rugby tournament, the famous Kenya Open Golf tournament, to our famous Safari Rally and Rhino Charge. Then there are the regional tournaments for football, rugby, golf, cricket and basketball etc.
Globally, there are sports events like the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, the European Football Championships, the IRB Sevens, the Rugby Union World Cup and the Formula 1 Grand Pix, the Grand Slam Tennis tournaments, The Masters, and the Grand National.
Some statistics on sports tourism.
The FIFA World Cup in 2010 attracted 309, 554 foreign international tourists and they spent R 3.64 billion which was impressive during a time when there was a global financial crisis.
Check out some statistics by FIFA on the World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
• The total awareness of South Africa as a leisure destination increased by nine per cent after the FIFA World Cup. Tourists also found their experience in the country much better than they expected before arriving. • The 2010 FIFA World Cup did help improve the negative perceptions South Africa has on safety and security issues and as a value-for-money destination. • Even though the tournament was held in winter, the Fan Parks were a popular choice for many supporters. The most visited Fan Parks were also in Gauteng , KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape. • About five per cent of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tourists indicated that they visited other African countries during their trip to South Africa
• The average person who visited the country during the event spent just over ten nights in South Africa. There were a number of issues contributing to time spent in the country. Some fans returned home after their teams were eliminated and some arrived in South Africa during the event following the success of their teams. • Out of the places fans visited, Gauteng (Johannesburg, Pretoria), Western Cape (Cape Town) and KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) were the most visited provinces. Shopping and enjoying nightlife were the two most common activities which tourists engaged in, apart from watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The London 2012 Olympics attracted 680,000 overseas residents to the UK to watch, participate or work at the games, and also others who attended a game while in the UK for another purpose.
The Monaco Grand Prix attracts around 200,000 visitors over its four-day duration.
Our very own Safaricom Sevens Rugby tournament attracts more than 20,000 fans with many fans and players coming for the tournament from outside the country.
Our safari rally in its heydays also attracted quite a large international crowd.
Factors that encourage growth of sports tourism.
The increased media exposure to sports and sports personalities like David Beckham, Thiery Henry, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Serena and Venus Williams, David Rudisha, Ezekiel Kemboi, Usain Bolt, and Tiger Woods.
The emergence of low cost airlines and also infrastructure developments in relation to sports in different countries.
Sports events have become entertainment events with more appeal to attend, festivals to go to and activities created around them.
Availability of internet has also created exposure for people on what’s going on out there and has encouraged people to venture out and see what is going in the world.
Strategic marketing by countries to encourage people to visit their countries for both sports and leisure.
Sports tourism is one segment of tourism in which some countries like US, UK, France, Spain have specialized. There are also countries like Brazil, South Africa, Dubai and Russia which are trying to emerge from the shadows of the big boys in terms of sports tourism.
This is an area in which Kenya should strategize on as one of the tourism sectors to promote/ exploit. We have the best athletes in the world and we now have training athletic training camps. We also have footballers who are making themselves a name in Europe. We also have one of the best 7’s rugby teams in the world, who wherever they go to play are cheered on by Kenyans and other nationalities as well.
We have what it takes to take Kenya to the world stage in terms of sports tourism. The big question is why is it taking us so long?