sport tourism

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Sport participation or spectatorship based upon travel, by either the high-performance competitor or team (as in the use of the term ‘tourists’ for visiting sport teams, particularly in cricket and rugby, a legacy of the early amateur-based international fixture list); the committed sporting practitioner at whatever level of accomplishment, attainment, or aspiration; or the travelling fan or spectator. For the sport participant, sport tourism has been stimulated by the expanding global holiday industry, with an emphasis on outdoor adventure holidays as well as focused individual activity: sport tourism covers a multitude of possible activities, destinations, and sites, from white-water rafting to skiing and snowboarding; from golf courses to tennis training camps and self-organized cycling breaks; from the Olympics and football World Cups to city-based marathons.

Sport tourism establishes new markets for the tourism industry, often targeting what has been called ‘skilled consumption’, the ‘search by many consumers for more challenging and stimulating forms of leisure experience’, as sport economists Chris Gratton and Peter Taylor, drawing upon economist Tibor Scitovsky's (1981) study The Joyless Economy: An Enquiry into Human Satisfaction and Consumer Dissatisfaction (1990), expressed it; the skilled consumer looks for repeated experiences, aspires to rising skill levels and constant new challenges, and comprises a lucrative niche market for the sport tourist provider and entrepreneur. The jogger aspiring to complete a four-hour marathon ‘simply needs to understand the process by which enjoyment is generated…needs to be a skilled consumer, not necessarily a skilled sportsman’ (Gratton and Taylor, Government and the Economics of Sport, 1991).

Sport tourism has frequently been seen as a form of revitalization and regeneration of a local or regional economy, such as the introduction of outdoor sports—particularly ski-resorts—in mountainous areas where the traditional and agrarian subsistence economy could no longer be sustained. Sport tourism has also targeted spectator audiences for high-profile international sporting competitions, most visibly at events such as Olympic Games and football World Cups, where fan zones and public screenings have encouraged international visitors to attend the venue or the site, regardless of whether they have tickets for the actual stadium. The knock-on effects of such strategies are of course beneficial for the hospitality industries of any host nation. Analysis of the impact of sport tourism requires consideration of not just economic but also environmental factors.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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