Sporting Tourism Is Big Business

The tourism industry has a shown good growth this year, even in the face of the worst cyclone in the history of the Pacific and a flood in the West.
18 Jun 2016 08:20
Sporting Tourism Is Big Business

The tourism industry has a shown good growth this year, even in the face of the worst cyclone in the history of the Pacific and a flood in the West.

The Tourism Action Group leapt into action immediately and seems to have been successful in driving a fast recovery in the main source markets.

Tourism marketing has many niche markets that combine to help build numbers and there has been some concentration on four; golf, weddings, diving and super yachts.

But there are others that are recognised as having good potential and one of those is coming into sharp focus for our industry in Fiji.

The group is known as sports tourism and there are very large numbers at stake here.

The value of the segment has just been demonstrated by the successful bid for the 2017 Interhash, a group of running clubs with Chapters in many countries who come together for both the running and to catch up with each other.

This event will deliver somewhere around 18,000 tourists in a single week.

This is made up of around 6000 actual Hash runners and experience has shown that there will be an average of two supporters for each of them.

The current plans are for the events to be run in and around Denarau, which will provide a huge boost for Fiji.

Right now Denarau is hosting the Auckland to Denarau yacht race, which was won this year in record time by the yacht Vodafone.

Again this event provides a large number of tourists, with most of the crew members having family join them and to extend their holiday here.

Just across the Nadi Bay on Cloudbreak Reef the World Surfing championships are taking place.

While the numbers for this are small they are a nice addition and the event provides worldwide media coverage of the surfing conditions in Fiji, coverage generally targeting surfers through special interest magazines, but also delivering extensive television news coverage.

The Natadola International Golf Course will be the focus of an international golfing event with many of the famous players in attendance.

Again this will provide a great deal of media coverage and allow Fiji to showcase the country to this particular audience.

This tournament is played annually now and appears to be growing well.

Fiji is the host country this year for the Oceania Championships, which bring together athletes from all over the region, including Australia and New Zealand, for a wide variety of sports.

It is a qualifying event for the Rio Olympics and will be attended by all the star athletes. These high profile events will generate wide media coverage and assist in growing the numbers.

There are also many supporters of the athletes who attend the games and then holiday in Fiji, spreading out over most of the tourism areas.

A Triathalon, which was contested by a number of overseas athletes, has just been held in Denarau and this was very successful. It is planned that this will be an annual event.

The Mana Ocean Swim has been held annually for a number of years now and is contested by a number of overseas swimmers each year.


The greatest source

Potentially the greatest source of tourism numbers is the “Golden Oldies” concept.

This has become a highly organised segment of the tourism market and covers a wide age bracket as well as a growing number of sports.

To date, Fiji has been disadvantaged because the required infrastructure such as grounds, fields, competition swimming pools, courts and tracks have not been available in the West in close proximity to Denarau.

Denarau is the only tourism area that has enough infrastructure to host a Golden Oldies event.

These events attract large numbers of people, both supporters and competitors and they spend a good length of time in the country.

There have been Golden Oldies events but they have been limited in size and frequency and much more can be done, particularly out of Australia and New Zealand, if the sports infrastructure is available.

The industry recognises this and is actively looking at ways the problem can be addressed.


Other events

Other sporting events that have been gained for Fiji this year are the World Stand Up Paddling, inclusion as a stopover in a world yachting safari, and a World Eighteen Footer Yacht Championship.

The eighteen footers are the most exciting form of yacht racing and there will be a significant amount of media exposure of the event.

Sporting clubs worldwide all have end-of-season trips and usually like to combine some games with the relaxation.

With enough places to hold games they can be encouraged to use Fiji. This is particularly true of our major source markets but there is opportunity in other areas as well.


Trend around the world

Sporting tourists are common around the world and in the tourism industry are generally regarded as high value business.

They are prepared to spend on good accommodation, enjoy a good lifestyle, and tend to use the resort facilities.

The sports people also bring supporters and family with them, swelling the numbers.

Sports tourists are classified differently to sporting bodies who come in to play a game and leave, such as international rugby matches.

These people generally arrive, train for a short period, play and leave. Sports tourists use the tourism plant extensively and add to the economy.

While sport is the glue that keeps them together, it is not their sole focus.

One of the crew of the winning Auckland yacht said “the only way I can get away is if the race finishes somewhere my wife wants to go to, then she agrees and she and the family follow me up to have a holiday”.

For the tourism industry that is probably the reason they like sports tourism so much.
John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him:

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