A local sport organiser has called for tax waiver on sports tourism inputs and sports related travel so more competition and training can take place across borders.
And Manager of the Local Organizing Committee for Rugby Barbados World 7s (RBW7s), George Nicholson, has also suggested “fallow” farmland could instead be the grounds for a multipurpose sporting facility, arguing it would help Barbados to compete for sports tourism dollars.
Rugby 7s, originally known as seven-a-side rugby, is a variant of the contact sport, rugby union.
Insisting that sports was the new frontier for tourism, Nicholson said the sporting industry had the potential to rake in millions in foreign exchange earnings each year.
Nicholson, who was outlining the support his organisation received from the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) over the past year, was speaking at the 32nd annual general meeting of the TDC at the Accra Beach resort on Tuesday.
A multi-purpose facility, he contended, would encourage more teams to come to Barbados for sporting events.
Nicholson said: “We have in Barbados hundreds of [acres of] agriculture land that is now fallow.
“Sugar cane is unfortunately no longer the cash cow it used to be. Tourism is our life blood.
A multisport facility… doesn’t have to be a $250 million facility or all things for all people but expand on it [overtime].
“There are all kinds of ways you can approach this.
“Create a facility that accommodate multiple sports in different formats and then go out and market that to the world.
“That is how you are going to build your sports tourism product.”
He contended the lack of a multisport facility was a threat to the RBW7s, which is usually held at the 3W’s Oval, Mecca of cricket, adding that there were several other threats and weaknesses that should be addressed.
“RBW7s has been at risk of cancellation due to factors surrounding future cricket events,” Nicholson said in his report.
But he appeared to sidestep the sprawling Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, on the lands of the former Upton plantation which is home to several indoor and outdoor sports.
Other weaknesses in the Barbados market he identified as higher accommodation prices when compared to other destinations, higher transport costs, high printing costs, inadequate sporting facilities and associated amenities, “prohibitively expensive” intra-regional travel and poor airlift from French territories with strong sporting structures.
He argued that by making intra-regional travel “a bit more affordable” for Caribbean athletes it would allow the island to favourably compete for more sports tourism dollars.
Nicholson said: “That is one of the barriers we have now to intra-regional competition, let alone tourism.
“Young persons and youth clubs are unable to afford the cost of travel.
“If there is one thing that the governments have within their power to do is waive VAT on various inputs into the tourism.
‘If you can get your cost down by at least 20 per cent for your intra-regional travel that may encourage more of our youth and youth organizations to travel.”
He said the continued growth of the RBW7s locally was threatened due to stiff competition for the event from other countries who were already receiving ample private sector support.
Despite these threats and weaknesses, Nicholson said, there were several opportunities for the sport and the wider sports tourism industry, including targeted marketing all year round and the building of the suggested sport facility.
He said this would result in Barbados attracting teams for “winter training, pre-season training, acclimatization training and athlete rehabilitation”.
Nicholson pointed out that the marketing funding provided by the TDC during the 2018-2019 financial year was used for social media marketing beginning in February, marketing in the UK in April and May and marketing in the US between August and October.