During a major tourism summit hosted in Limerick City this week it was announced that Ireland could double its revenue from sport tourism up to as much as €600 million over the next five years. Over recent years the sports tourism industry has been identified as the fastest growing tourism sector is worth an estimated €450 billion.
The organisers behind the European Sport Tourism Summit, the first event of its kind to be held in this country, have proposed the establishment of a ‘national bid unit’ that in conjunction with the Department of Sport and Tourism and would bid for international events.
Former Ireland rugby legend Keith Wood, who founded W2 Consulting along with specialist sports consultant Mark O’Connell, said this was crucial to the success 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.
Some of the leading world experts in the sector were invited to make the trip to Ireland to attend The European Sport Tourism Summit for a major think-tank at Thomond Park in Limerick.
The event was an opportunity for Irish and delegates from overseas that included representatives from local authorities, sports bodies, federations, clubs, charity organisations and communities here and abroad to discuss how to attract global sports events and tournaments or develop their own major sports tourism product.
A plethora of high profile experts from across the globe were on hand to give their thoughts including Martin Sneddon, CEO of New Zealand Rugby World Cup; Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark; Rick Traer, CEO, Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance; and former England and Lions rugby union international Lawrence Dallaligo, who has led some of the UK’s highest profile charity fundraisers.
Head of major events for Failte Ireland, Keith McCormack said an estimated 10% of those planning vacations in Ireland and Europe choose their destinations based on the activities they can do there.
He said this was expected to rise to 15% in 2014.
“The key thing for Ireland is we’re very well positioned and we have the natural backdrop for people to enjoy activity-based holidays,” he said.
He said a dedicated sports event unit was key to development of the sector.
“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,” he said.
Another key speaker, Sarah Harvey, vice president of Tough Mudder – the largest adventure race brand in the world – said Ireland was an excellent location for mass participation events. Tough Mudder is the fastest growing mass participation event in the world and will be coming to Ireland for the first time in October.