Cyprus is anxious to get on the global sports tourism map and earn a bigger share of this increasingly lucrative and growing market.
According to Global Wellness Institute Statistics, sports tourism’s portion of the EUR2.6 trillion global tourism market comes to between EUR203 billion and EUR305 billion, a 10 percent share.
The sports tourism sector is also anticipated to have a 41 percent compound annual growth rate between 2017 and 2021.
A recent Nicosia-based event saw successful international specialists share their secrets with local stakeholders eager to bring more sports tourism business Cyprus’ way.
The island’s year-round warm climate, low-crime rate and geographic location have, for some time, attracted sports teams and other athletes from around the world seeking a place to train during the winter. More recently, an improved sports infrastructure and better hospitality industry understanding of athletes’ highly-specific needs has built up the country’s offering. However, it is generally agreed that more can be done to build on existing achievements and make Cyprus a global sports tourism leader.
Towards achieving this goal, specialists from around the world, on February 21, joined local stakeholders for Sports Tourism Conference, an event focused on maximising the industry’s impact on the island.
Presented by University of Nicosia, the conference saw experts from Canada, Ireland, Slovenia, Spain, Greece and Austria share their countries’ experiences. The latest technological tools, such as software measuring a sporting event’s impact on a community, were also presented.
Local stakeholders introduced the current state of play and plans for the future.
Starting off the discussion, Nicos Kartakoullis, professor, Organisational Behaviour and Sport Management, University of Nicosia, noted sports and tourism were, on their own, already two highly profitable sectors. He called on participants to consider what could be achieved when these were combined, also noting the significant steps that have already been taken, despite their still being huge challenges which remain. These include, but are not limited to, finding ways to further upgrade Cyprus’ tourism product, making the destination more visible, and capitalising on technology.
“Ahead of the 2004 Olympics in Greece, Cyprus was visited by British Olympic
Association and the UK Sports Minister at the time to evaluate Cyprus [as a prospective training destination],” noted Kartakoullis, adding that the resulting report was very positive. “However, Cyprus has not yet managed to live up to its full potential,” he continued.
Mistakes included hotels promising high-level football teams a gym, only to have them arrive and find 30 players having to share a single workout bench.
Kartakoullis also remarked that visiting athletes have had to climb fences to get into sports facilities on a Sunday because its operators did not want to pay the caretaker overtime, or about hotel chefs complaining about adapting to athletes’ meal schedules. “We need to become more specialised, whether we are dealing with top-level teams or recreational athletes [...],” he continued, underlining the need for Cyprus to develop a strong brand.
Colin Stewart, senior analyst, Sportcal, UK, shared how tools exist to help event organisers measure a sporting events true financial impact on a destination.
Mark O’Connell, director, insights and strategy, W2 Consulting, Ireland divulged sports tourism development strategy secrets such as marketing a destination’s unique selling points.
O’Connell, a keen cyclist, also revealed how he chose a sporting holiday destination. Aspects athletes would enjoy boasting about to their friends and colleagues at home, and ease of access were high on the list. “Returning to Ireland from Cyprus, for example, I will have to stopover in London. If I want to go cycling in Mallorca, I can hop on a plane and be there in two hours,” said O’Connell.
Damajan Pintar, sports marketing and management, Sportour, Slovenia, said communities should create quality sporting facilities meeting international standards.
Rick Traer, CEO, Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, commented on the positive impact sports made on a community beyond potential financial gain, highlighting Canadian morale during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
THE WAY FORWARD
When the floor opened to comments, David Lasday, Israel Lacrosse Association, raised the need for volunteers to help propel a country’s sports tourism product forward.
Brian Grier, Famagusta District Sailing Club, commented that it was club members volunteering their time, expertise and funds that had seen several international events held on the island without government support. He also suggested the state make more of the Mediterranean Sea, noting it, unlike an expensive stadium, did not have to be constructed.
Once specialists from Spain, Greece and Austria shared their valuable expertise, it was the turn of more local stakeholders. Philippos Drousiotis, chairman, Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative, underlined the importance of sports tourism falling in line with sustainable development principals.
Maria Solomou, officer, Cyprus Tourism Organisation, presented an incentives package encouraging the sector’s further development.
Leontios Tselepos, chairman, sports tourism committee, Cyprus Sports Organisation (CSO), noted CSO currently supports sports tourism by financing local sports federations and promoting Cyprus overseas.
The event closed with a panel discussion looking at the island’s current sports tourism infrastructure and its margins for improvement and how Cypriot athletes could benefit from their country attracting more sports tourism.