A host of international travel experts have discussed ways to expand sports tourism as one of the emerging propellers of the COVID-battered industry.
Celebrated experts and academics in sports tourism debated on current and future trends in the sector and underlined the key role of sport for the development of more sustainable and inclusive tourism during the two-day World Sports Tourism Congress, which came to an end on November 26 November in Spain.
At the opening ceremony, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili declared that the holding of this Congress, with strong in-person participation, is a clear message that the tourism sector is ready to welcome tourists again, and the recovery of sports tourism plays an important role, the UN body reported.
Pololikashvili added: "An encouraging example is the gradual return of major sporting events, which is a major driver of the restart of tourism."
Sport events of various kinds and sizes attract tourists as participants or spectators and destinations try to add local flavors to them to distinguish themselves and provide authentic local experiences. Mega sports events such as the Olympics and World Cups can be a catalyst for tourism development if successfully leveraged in terms of destination branding, infrastructure development, and other economic and social benefits.
In addition, sports tourism may provide plenty of opportunities for neighboring countries of a certain state which is set to host a mega-sport event. For example, the Iranian island of Kish in the Persian Gulf has announced its readiness to host Qatar World Cup spectators.
According to Iran’s deputy tourism minister Ali-Asghar Shalbafian, Iran should benefit from the 2022 World Cup as a considerable opportunity to promote its distinctive travel attractions. “With the World Cup being held in a neighboring country, Iran can benefit from this important event, which if carefully planned, can bring significant wins for various sectors, especially the tourism industry in the country,” he noted.
Local officials say, the proximity of Kish to Qatar, and the lower cost of staying on this island make it possible for spectators and teams to stay here during the World Cup, which will be held from November 21 to December 18, 2022.
As mentioned by the UNWTO, sports tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism. More and more tourists are interested in sports activities during their trips whether sports are the main objective of travel or not.