Peter Francesconi 2015-11-03 02:43:38
In our special‘Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism’ awards feature, Sports Destination Management honors the people and places scoring big in the sports travel industry On some levels, it would seem relatively easy for individual cities and towns to calculate the overall economic impact for specific sports events that come into their communities. However, our industry has yet to develop a definitive, overall and comprehensive national survey to determine the “total sports travel market economy”—one that takes into account, and breaks down, sports tourism from all sources—youth and amateur events, regular season college and professional events and other special tournaments. But based on data that are available, including anecdotal evidence from CVBs and sports commissions around the country, along with industry experts, we have reason to be positive about continued growth in the sports travel industry at all levels. A big reason for our optimism is that the sports event industry continues to show its resilience despite overall U.S. economic downturns in recent years.Because of this, our industry has often been described as “recession-resistant,” if not “recession-proof,” and with good reason. Consider the nature of the sports travel industry itself: Many events must take place every year, so the demand for venues stays high. In fact, that demand appears to be continually increasing, as we constantly hear about CVBs and sports commissions looking to expand, improve or build more facilities. (In addition, according to a recent white paper by the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) on the economic impact of sports events, many host organizations continue to develop their own yearly events designed to attract out-of-town teams.) Often cited is that families will travel to attend tournaments and events to support their young athletes, frequently turning the trip into a mini-vacation. Finding quality “family time” continues to be more and more important in American life, and we should expect this factor to increase in the future. To some extent, we also can say this is a self-perpetuating industry: As locations build and improve their sports facilities to attract tournaments and out-of-town visitors, those quality facilities become available to the local population, too— thereby increasing the number of overall athletes in the U.S., which we hope will bode well in the future for more sports events. (In fact, for many localities, to be most cost- and use-effective, new sports facility development should first meet local needs, so they will be assured of covering their operating costs.) Total ‘Value’ of the Sports Travel Market? So, what is the “value” of the sports travel market? An overall number for both amateur and professional events is hard to come by. But for the amateur sports travel market, a research team from The George Washington University Sports Management program surveyed NASC members, which included CVBs and sports commissions in markets of under 100,000 population to more than a million, and calculated that nationally in 2014, “visitor spending” for the sports travel industry was $8.96 billion, up 3% from 2013. In the GWU study, attracting visitors and their dollars to the community was, of course, the top priority for respondents, followed by: marketing their region, supporting their local sports venues and franchises, representing the sports industry in the community, creating community activities, sports advocacy, sports philanthropy and health & fitness. Another study by the University of Florida indicated that overall spending on travel expenses (food, accommodations, fuel, airline tickets, etc.) for just youth sports, which includes families traveling with their child, totaled $7 billion a year. The U of Florida study also found that nearly 60% of parents wind up returning to the city for a vacation, and 74% recommend the location to others. The same study looked at spending at a recent Traverse City, Michigan, event and concluded that each non-local family spent $985 on accommodations, restaurants, concessions, etc. A study by Sports Marketing Surveys USA (SMS) shows that in 2014, there were 34.9 million people who traveled with an overnight stay to participate in or watch an amateur sports event, a figure that has remained fairly consistent going back to 2008. While 18% of these sports travelers were ages six to 17, about 51% were ages 25 to 54, more evidence that families are accompanying their young players to events. On average, according to the SMS study, sports travelers in 2014 spent $256 per person per year—which might seem low on the face of it, but that number is consistent with the GWU study for visitor spending, when you consider spending a night or two at an event, sharing rooms, etc. ‘Specialization’ Helping Fuel Youth Sports Travel Of concern, however, is that while the George Washington University study determined there were 25.65 million “visitors entertained” in 2014 sports travel across the U.S., that number is down 10% from a year earlier, indicating that the increase in visitor spending was most likely due to rising travel costs and associated expenses. This decrease in the number of visitors may track with another study, by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), that shows over the last five years, there has been a slightly shrinking market for team sports in the U.S. overall in terms of raw participation. For 2014, there were nearly 63 million participants of all ages in team sports (taking into account all participants, not just travel team players), which is a 1.2% decline from 2009. But what is significant for the amateur sports travel market is the rise in “specialization” in youth sports, particularly for so-called ‘niche sports,’ such as gymnastics, cheerleading, swimming, ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse and rugby. So the bad news/good news here is that while specialization appears to be a contributor to declines in overall sports participation, it also is a prime driver in the sports travel industry, as families invest more in the development, training and competition for their young athlete. In fact, many households consider it an investment in their children’s future as they look to use sports participation to help gain athletic scholarships for college. Also, participation in team sports by girls ages 10 to 12 appears to be a bright spot, up nearly 3% since 2009, according to the SFIA. In fact, the five-year trend in gender mix for team sports shows women overall moving strongly into sports like ice and roller hockey, along with increased opportunities in traditionally male-dominated team sports like baseball and football. Males are also having a larger presence today in sports like gymnastics, swimming and competitive cheer. Despite SFIA data showing declines in team sports participation, several highprofile initiatives continue to gain traction in helping to address the “inactivity epidemic” and drive more sports-related activities for both youth and adults. Among those campaigns are the “Let’s Move” initiative and PHIT America. Using health and fitness to increase the pool of overall athletes, especially for children, simply makes sense. Benefits Beyond Big Revenues For many cities, sports tourism has gained serious momentum over the past decade and has even become an economic engine. Major college and professional seasons and events rake in millions for their host locations while providing spectators with one-of-a-kind entertainment. On the amateur/recreational side, hundreds of communities around the country are providing athletes and their families with solid, high-quality tournament experiences that have the ability to change and influence young lives. Take, for instance, the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, billed as the largest amateur sports and meeting facility in the world, and a model when it comes to youth sports facilities. In 2000, the annual economic impact from out-ofstate visitors was $30.2 million; in 2011, that figure topped $50 million. For the same time period, attendance at the National Sports Center went from 2.5 million to 4 million. And smaller markets are also seeing big gains, too. According to the University of Florida study, Greenville, South Carolina, is earning up to $10 million a year in sports-related tourism revenue. The sports facilities that communities like Greenville build and maintain for hosting events continue to have incalculable benefit for local residents of all ages. Sports can strengthen not just athletes, but also communities. With SDM’s “Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism” awards, we’re pleased to be able to celebrate all that sports travel brings not just to the venues themselves, but also to athletes, families and spectators.
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