The recently held international cricket match at Dominica’s “Windsor Park Stadium” between West Indies and Australia has aroused much talk on the island about the push for authorities to embrace Sports Tourism. Sports tourism refers to international trips taken specifically to watch sporting events. Sports Tourism can complement our Tourism product, but are we ready to do what is necessary to make this a reality?
In order to fully benefit from Sports Tourism, we will need to examine the status of sports in general in Dominica. Are we cultivating a sports culture in our people? Do we have in place the facilities and qualified human resource to ensure that we produce sportsmen who will be able to perform creditable and in so doing, lure the populace to the sports events? West Indians are cricket lovers and so the opportunity to see the West Indies in action at home would lure the crowd, but having our own Shane Shillingford on the team was an added incentive. Should we stop at International cricket and Shane Shillingford?
Let us examine the sport of Track and Field for instance. The CARIFTA Games an annual athletics competition founded by the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) is one of the best junior track and field events in our region, according to International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) standards. This event takes place every Easter in a different country and the number of athletes who compete at this game far exceeds the number on any cricket team. The Jamaican contingent alone would boast over 40 athletes and officials, large contingents would also come from the Bahamas, Barbados, etc. Imagine the benefit to hoteliers, taxi drivers, farmers, etc, if Dominica would play host to such an activity? Are we ready; however, to host such an activity?
The 2007 Cricket World Cup staged in the Caribbean was thought to have generated an additional 100,000 visitors who travelled specifically for the tournament. A leading tour operator in Australia blogged about his experience in Dominica during the recently held international march http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/general/dominica-impresses-australian/. Sports Tourism allows the opportunity to sell ones country and “the grapevine” believe it or not can do much more than any expensive advertisement. Dominica, known as the Nature Isle of the Caribbean has so much potential. We are blessed with natural resources and have much to offer to anyone who visits our shores.
There is much potential for growth of this niche market in Dominica. Increased media exposure of sporting events in Dominica will raise the profile of our country, an increasing number of sports fans want to experience live events so they will be drawn to our shores. The media also has the ability to make national and international icons of sporting stars, thereby generating greater demand, as fans want to see their sporting idols “in the flesh”. This we experience with our own national “Shane Shillingford” who made his mark right here in Dominica. Sporting events themselves are being made increasingly appealing to attend, with greater levels of comfort, and other events – such as festivals – being created around them. Overall, the sports tourism niche market is expected to grow annually at around 6% for the next five years. Dominica should take the bull by the horn and be a part of this.
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