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T20 perfect sport to boost tourism
While watching the T&T-Guyana T20 match on television last weekend, I felt as if I was viewing a Barcelona- Real Madrid football match. The Oval was packed with wild, red-clad spectators, waving flags, chanting and dancing. The sounds of tassa and soca made for a distracting acoustic backdrop to the drone of the commentators. It looked like a throbbing red sea, the excitement of which was contagious, even from the remote location of my living room. I recalled a media interview with Garvin Nicholas, T&T’s High Commissioner to the UK, who discussed the importance of sports tourism in helping to boost the economy.
Sports tourism is a powerful income generator and gentrifier. Both Barcelona and Sydney grossed massive profits (billions of dollars) from an increase in tourists and business development during, and years after, the Olympic Games. In fact, Barcelona rose from 11th to 6th place worldwide as the most attractive city to locate a business. Even Brazil, which will be hosting the Games in 2016 and the FIFA World Cup in 2014, has already seen a boost in revenue since 2010. It is predicted that they will continue to enjoy an increase of over US$24 billion into 2027, during which time Brazil’s economy will rise from 10th to 5th place in the world.
Sports tourism provides growth not only by generating more revenue, but by increasing new employment opportunities, improving urban infrastructure, and reappraising entire destinations, changing the attitudes and misconceptions of the tourists who visit the country for the event. T20 cricket is the perfect sport with which to start developing the sports tourism industry in T&T, as its popularity has it being televised even on ESPN. However, despite packed Oval stands at this T20 match, the crowd consisted of mostly locals. I thought it a shame that there were not many foreigners.
T&T really is a complete package, offering eco-attractions, sun, sea and sand, as well as cultural events and nightlife. Why is it that we cannot get more foreigners to such popular events like T20 cricket? According to Mr Nicholas, we need to bring more international events like boxing, sailing and golf tournaments to T&T for development of sports tourism. In my opinion, we already have such events, but the problem is organisation and business management. Do we market our T20 matches to Europe and Australia, and even to all the West Indians living in the USA? It seems that we rely more on television advertising and on the tourists to check cricket websites for schedules. It does not appear that the managing authorities attempt to make these events attractive to foreigners who will think it worth their while to visit T&T.
Perhaps offering tourist packages that involve more of an all-inclusive experience with choices to visit beaches, hike, dive, or tour the island, in addition to the sporting events would be more attractive to visitors. We live in competitive times when innovation and the unique experience trump the ordinary. A Guardian editorial this week lamented the fact that at TT$40 a ticket, TTCBC could not possibly have generated any significant revenue during the Trinidad leg of this T20 series that could be channelled back into the sport for development. Foreigners who engage in travel-forsport are usually ‘highspending’ and can afford higher prices. Products must be priced accordingly, yet still within reach of the local supporters. Greater revenue means greater development of the sport, increasing tourists and further gains in profit for development.
TTCBC seems to need more forward thinkers at the forefront of their business sector. There are other areas of concern for the sports tourism industry. Inefficient, unsafe transport is a major issue that deters foreigners. Just recently, a foreign student chose to do her physiotherapy internship in Singapore instead of Trinidad because of concern for her safety whilst getting around. In the National Stadium and other like locations, while the bleachers and grounds are usually decently maintained, the athlete facilities like therapy and locker rooms with proper equipment leave much to be desired.
Top-class teams want top-class facilities, which are not available here. Mr Nicolas also stated that the development of “worldclass training facilities and academies” could attract regional athletes to train here. While I agree that we need to improve our facilities, I find it unrealistic to think that we could compete with Europe and USA where athletes receive scholarships (even get paid) and have access to topclass coaching and rehabilitation programs. We are unable to develop and finance proper academies for our own youth, far less regional athletes. I think our energies are better spent organising international events and packages that would attract highpaying tourists. However, much work needs to be done if we are to capitalise on this seismic shift in tourist patterns. T20 perfect sport to boost tourism
Carla Rauseo, P.T., M.S., C.S.C.S. is a physical therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited in El Socorro.
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