A major tourism summit has been told that Ireland could see its revenue from sport tourism double from €300m to €600m in the space of just five years.
The European Sport summit, the first of its kind to be held in Ireland, took place in one of Irish sports most iconic venues – Thomond Park. The organisers of the one day event called for the setting up of a ‘national bid unit’ and were clear on the benefits it would bring. Former Munster, Ireland and Lions great Keith Wood believes such a unit would be crucial for the development of the sector.
“We’ve looked at best practice elsewhere, especially in relation to Canada and Denmark, and how they’ve delivered on their aspirations was through a bid company”, he said.
Estimated to be worth in the region of €450bn globally, sport tourism is the fastest growing in the sector. The summit was attended by delegates from here and abroad and was addressed by high profile experts. Amongst these was CEO of New Zealand Rugby World Cup Martin Sneddon; Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark; Rick Traer, CEO of Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance as well as Keith Woods former Lions teammate and Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaligo.
Keith McCormack, head of Failte Ireland’s major events claimed that 10% of European holiday makers chose their destination based on the list of activities that would be available there. Furthermore, he believes that this number will increase to 15% in 2014. Speaking about the potential that Ireland has, McCormack noted that “the key thing for Ireland is we’re very well positioned and we have the natural backdrop for people to enjoy activity-based holidays”.
Importantly, he shared the views put forward by Keith Wood and agreed that it was key for the development of the sector here in Ireland to have a dedicated sports event unit.
“We need to collaborate with all the stake holders in Ireland for them to identify these events and we’re also hoping to work with an international research centre that would help us identify international events”.
Also speaking on the day, was vice president of Tough Mudder, Sarah Harvey. Tough Mudder is the largest adventure race brand in the world and is holding their first event in Ireland on October 4/5, which is expected to attract almost 10,000 participants – of which 1,000 will be from abroad. Harvey believes Ireland is an excellent location for mass participation events.
Keith Wood hoped the summit had begun to turn the wheels of interest in the benefits of such a national bid unit.
“There’s a simple statistic behind it. Sports tourists spend twice as much as anyone else and it is growing worldwide and we want a piece of that action”, he said.