DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland could double its revenue from sport tourism from €300m to €600m in just five years, a major tourism summit has been told.
The sports tourism industry is worth an estimated €450bn globally – and is the fastest growing tourism sector – but Ireland needs a proper national strategy supported by Government to increase its share of the pie.
The organisers behind the European Sport Tourism Summit, the first event of its kind to be held in this country, are calling for a ‘national bid unit’ that would be supported by the Department of Sport and Tourism and would bid for international events.
Former Ireland rugby legend Keith Wood, one of the founders of W2 Consulting along with specialist sports consultant Mark O’Connell, said this was crucial to the success of the sector.
“We’ve looked at best practice elsewhere, especially in relation to Canada and Denmark, and how they’ve delivered on their aspirations was through a bid company,” he said.
The European Sport Tourism Summit brought some of the world’s leading experts in the sector together for a major think-tank at Thomond Park in Limerick.
The event was an opportunity for Irish and visiting delegates that included representatives from local authorities, sports bodies, federations, clubs, charity organisations and communities here and abroad to discuss how to attract global sports events and tournaments or develop their own major sports tourism product.
Among the high profile international experts giving their insights were Martin Sneddon, CEO of New Zealand Rugby World Cup; Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark; Rick Traer, CEO, Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance; and former England and Lions star Lawrence Dallaligo, who has led some of the UK’s highest profile charity fundraisers.
Head of major events for Failte Ireland, Keith McCormack said an estimated 10pc of European holiday makers choose their destinations based on the activities they can do there.
He said this was expected to rise to 15pc in 2014.
“The key thing for Ireland is we’re very well positioned and we have the natural backdrop for people to enjoy activity-based holidays,” he said.
He said a dedicated sports event unit was key to development of the sector.
“We need to collaborate with all the stake holders in Ireland for them to identify these events and we’re also hoping to work with an international research centre that would help us identify international events,” he said.
Another key speaker, Sarah Harvey, vice president of Tough Mudder – the largest adventure race brand in the world – said Ireland was an excellent location for mass participation events.
Tough Mudder is the fastest growing mass participation event in the world and will be coming to Ireland for the first time in October.
Just four years after it launched, it had more participants in the US than marathons and is expected to attract almost 10,000 participants, including 1,000 international visitors to Punchestown Racecourse on October 4 and 5.
Keith Wood said he hoped the summit had ignited a spark.
“There’s a simple statistic behind it. Sports tourists spend twice as much as anyone else and it is growing world wide and we want a piece of that action,” he said.