On many occasions I have mentioned the impact and importance of sports tourism. With the Sol Rally Barbados only a few days from its climax, the Barbados Rally Club is reporting a record number of overseas entrants.
Whereas the usual participants like Martin Stockdale are here once again, it must be noted that the new entrants have come from some of the non-traditional markets like Ireland and other parts of Europe.
While listening to the speeches last night I also noted that the numbers of female participants is also increasing and this year we can expect to see nine female drivers taking part.
Our tourism numbers continue to feel the pressure of the global economic impact, however one of the bright sparks has been our sports tourism. Recently we saw the success of yachting here in Barbados and again we are seeing the growth in the number of visitors for the rally. I also take note that this year the number of supporters also seems to be on the increase. These are all good signs for the future of sports tourism.
I believe that sports tourism is as successful as it has been over the last decade or so because sponsors derive great exposure from the use of their sponsorship dollars and can recognise the returns from supporting sports.
Only last week while visiting the UK, I notice that there were many more bicyclists on the streets than I had seen on previous trips. I was then told that following the success of cycling during the last Olympics there are now an additional millions people riding bicycles.
Although I could independently confirm the numbers and the growth in bicycle sales I believe that it is true to say that persons are fascinated by sports and sports personalities. When the West Indies were going through their glory days as world champions of cricket, every little boy wanted to play the game. After the success of Obadele Thompson at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, everyone felt that they wanted to run fast.
Barbados, in my opinion, has what it takes to do great things with sports tourism — we are a known destination and our infrastructure works. Outside of whatever sporting event we attract there are many other things to do while sporting enthusiasts is on the island. Things in tourism have changed and so must we.
For many years we have been trying to find a way to bridge the gap between our winter performance and our out-of-season performance. I firmly believe that sports tourism is one such way. Just look at when the we are seeing this increase for a sporting event — in June, which is considered to be one of our weakest months.
* Tourism is our business, let us play our part.