Sports Tourism, The Tourism Sector Fiji Is Missing

There is a very significant sector of the tourism industry, the Sports Tourism category. And Fiji is not able to compete in the category because the required infrastructure is not
15 Oct 2016 11:52
Sports Tourism, The Tourism Sector Fiji Is Missing
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders is tackled by Seta Tamanivalu of the Chiefs during their Super Rugby match at the ANZ Stadium in Suva. Photo: Zimbio

There is a very significant sector of the tourism industry, the Sports Tourism category.

And Fiji is not able to compete in the category because the required infrastructure is not available, or more accurately, is not available where it is required.

Fiji does have world class sporting facilities but they are mostly located in Suva.

What’s the problem with it being located there?

There is not a problem, there are a number of problems.

Suva is a nice cosmopolitan city with many choices of restaurants, bars and cafes, but the hotel accommodation is very limited both in the number of properties and in the standard available. None of the properties can be considered resorts, the nearest ones being in Pacific Harbour, a very long drive away.

And even here there are significant limitations in total room numbers.

For sports tourism to be worth marketing extensively there needs to be adequate infrastructure both in terms of the sporting facilities and the resort properties closely located, because the concept of sport tourism calls for a good combination of sporting opportunities and typical vacation product.

The tourist in this category typically goes to a destination for an organised sporting event, or series of events, but is usually accompanied by other members of the family, usually a spouse and children.

The sports person (usually a male but the sector is increasingly opening up to females) is the one who decides the destination but because they need to take others they need to have a destination with a broad appeal.

In this Fiji can tick all the boxes, but only for the tourism areas in the west, usually close to Nadi, the area that can provide the number and choice of accommodation properties that are needed.

But Nadi has difficulty in providing the sporting infrastructure which is the second and equally important part of the equation.

In terms of global location and climate Fiji has real benefits for sporting tourism, particularly the long and predictable dry season and the short flight times to the country’s main source markets.

But while the number, variety and standard of the sporting facilities are weak it will be difficult to gain significant numbers in this tourist category.

The participants in this sector are interested in a wide variety of sports and there are interesting subcategories, a number of which can provide remarkable numbers. Perhaps the most profitable is the Hash House Harriers biannual event, which attracts remarkable numbers.

The last Interhash in Bali had a participating group that exceeded five thousand runners, but estimates put the number of accompanying related tourists as an additional two people (on average) a runner.

This makes a total of fifteen thousand tourists for the one event. Remember that this is around the average number of tourists Fiji attracts each week, but these are additional numbers, incremental business that would not come to Fiji except for the event.

Fiji has won the bid to host the next Interhash.

This means that around sixty five extra flights will arrive in Fiji, basically in a two day period before the event and the same number of extra seats will be required for the tourists leaving, except that the numbers will not be so concentrated.

Every day the runners will need to be driven to the start of each run and taken back to the accommodation after and this will require around sixty to seventy buses each day.

As an aside, the Hash are committed beer drinkers after the run and discussions with the brewery executives suggest that they may leave behind a beer drought.

The accompanying people will also want to fill in their days with tourist activities and will book tours and experience product. All this will leave a large amount of money behind in Fiji and the economy will benefit greatly

The good thing about sports tourists is that they are generally not price sensitive, they tend to be from the more affluent end of the market and like to enjoy themselves.

Sports events can also be scheduled in times when the general tourist market is low, helping to fill the low seasons.

There are  many other subcategories such as swimming competitions, fishing events, hockey, volleyball, basket ball, football, cricket, tennis and golf.

The list is really unlimited. There is already a thriving group called the “Golden Oldies” which operates worldwide. The people who played all sort of sport turn to this category once they mature and find competing with the younger sports people difficult.

And of course with Fiji’s current world  standing in rugby, particularly Sevens, Fiji is an obvious choice and easy sells for this sport

So where is the problem? Nadi is totally lacking in quality sports infrastructure.

The main football ground is adequate for local events but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of a quality facility.

There are venues for volleyball, basket ball and such but they are not covered and (as far as I am awar),, lack even rudimentary toilet and change room facilities.

Athletics grounds fall into the same problem but with the added issue that they do not have adequate seating, covered stand or showers, while swimming facilities are another problem.

While there are a number of twenty-five metre pools in Nadi, there are no full size pools (fifty metres long) and the facilities such as toilets and change rooms are very limited.

The government has recognised the problem and will build a world class Aquatic Centre but are considering putting it in Lautoka, where it will do nothing to provide a pool within reasonable travel distance from the hotels and resorts of Nadi.

Lautoka tourist properties are even less numerous than Suva and will not provide sufficient beds for even a small event.

If we want to be able to tap into this very good market there is a need to provide quality sporting facilities within reach of the major tourist area.

Any facilities will not be constantly used by the tourist industry and the local community will also benefit from such initiatives, their options are currently not well served.

There is a great opportunity but it needs government help to be fully realised.

And the whole of Fiji will benefit from the injection of money into the economy a functioning sports tourism sector will deliver.

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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