Watch sports, will travel

30 Oct 2008

Sports buffs, who still long for the adrenalin rush after the recent Beijing Olympics and the first Singapore Formula 1 Night Race, will have more to look forward to as cities around the region place their faith in athletic events to bring in visitors.

Always the maverick, Singapore worked to get itself assigned as the Southeast Asian port of call for the ongoing 2008/2009 Volvo Ocean Race – one the world’s most grueling competitions – that just kicked off on October 11 in Alicante, Spain. Next year, it also hosts the Asian Youth Games, a prelude to the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games, the first initiative by the International Olympic Committee in many years.

Hongkong steps up to the plate next with the East Asian Games in December 2009, followed by Guangzhou for the 16th Asian Games in November 2010.

Sports tourism and its potential for hefty revenue is not being lost on travel and hospitality providers as the number of sports fans willing to travel to watch their favourite team or player perform increases. A forum at the first ITB Asia travel show in Singapore last month highlighted this fresh source of business.

Catherine McNabb, director, Strategic Clusters 1, Business Travel & MICE Group for the Singapore Tourism Board estimated that about 40 percent of the 100,000 spectators for the F1 night race in Singapore came from overseas. She projected that some 15,000 foreign guests would make up the audience at the future Youth Olympic Games.

Maggie White, general manager, South/Southeast Asia and Gulf Countries, Tourism Australia revealed that the country’s vibrant dining scene was an offshoot of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics when the city had to cater to the  diets of athletes from different countries. Rugby league games and the cricket series have been responsible for spurring domestic as well as international movements with fans staying to view the games from start to finish and some diehards staying as long as three weeks.

According to Grahame Carder, vice-president, marketing, Asia-Pacific, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, today’s emphasis on health and wellness has prompted hotels to invest in facilities such as gym, swimming pools, spas, tennis courts and access to golf courses to enable guests, whether on business or leisure, to keep as fit as the athletes they admire.

Wu Cuiping

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