From Bevan Springer
New York Amsterdam News
MARKETING CARIBBEAN SPORTS TOURISM
NEW YORK – Leverage the mysterious allure of the Caribbean to market the region as a sports tourism destination.
That was the word from Carole Beckford, publicist for the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Caribbean Week in New York.
Speaking to a travel agents reception at the Yale Club earlier this week on “Tapping into the lucrative niche of sports tourism”, the Jamaica-based Beckford, president of The Business of Sport-Jamaica, encouraged agents and tourism officials alike to better use Caribbean locations to sell the region’s “mystique, bold behavior and warm hospitality.”
It’s not the Burger King and McDonalds franchises that attract people to the Caribbean, rather the yam, bananas, dumplings and curried chicken, she contended. The performance-driven personalities of the region and their culinary habits were also appealing to sports tourism travelers, she averred.
Beckford noted at least 450 elite Caribbean athletes are featured on television year-round – from Jamaica’s Bolt to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ basketball superstar Tim Duncan – and posited greater success can be achieved if “we sell the history of the Caribbean athlete to the curious tourist”.
Studies show 12 million sports tourism trips are made each year, a niche which represents 14 percent of the global travel and tourism market. Growth of six to 11 percent is projected over the next 15 years for a market which features some of the highest spenders in the world.
The sports consultant and newspaper columnist counseled the Caribbean to leverage its diplomatic connections to bring international star players and their respective entourages to train in a region brimming with sports stars.
Beckford also advised sports should be teamed with the creative industries of film and fashion. “The entire creative sector when bundled with sports can sell the region,” she advocated, observing cultural products drive activity for the stay-over sector.
She cited the geographic location of the Caribbean – half a billion people live within a four-hour flight of the Caribbean – the region’s great sporting legacy, world class venues, top class accommodations, technically capable officials, great telecommunications, and the media’s love of the region as factors to energize the sports tourism marketing thrust.
Indians and Chinese are the biggest global spenders in this niche, and as such, cricket events should be designed and scheduled to attract more South Asian visitors to the Caribbean.