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Sport & Tourism Promotion  est une ASBL dont le but est d’organiser des événements sportifs locaux et internationaux de qualité.   Chaque organisation se déroule dans un lieu singulier et permet aux athlètes de participer à une course mais surtout de vivre une expérience unique.   A travers nos événements internationaux, nous voulons faire découvrir les richesses touristiques aux athlètes, le sport est un formidable vecteur de découverte et d'expérience humaine.

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Florian ​b​adoux, co-fondateur, project manager, denis det​inne, développement & finance, elodie janssens, communication et partenariats, perrine drygalski, responsable ressources humaines, nadège giaux, secrétaire club - gestion affiliations, didier de sousa pinto, event manager, ismar osmanovic, community manager & web designer, christophe herbint, secrétariat, trouvez l'épreuve qui vous correspond ​ & amusez vous .

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The First World Sports Tourism Congress: the Role of Sport for Tourism Recovery and its Contribution to the 2030 Agenda

  • All Regions
  • 26 Nov 2021

Renowned experts and academics in sports tourism debated over two days on current and future trends in the sector and underlined the key role of sport for the development of a more sustainable and inclusive tourism.

The first edition of the World Sports Tourism Congress (25-26 November, Lloret de Mar, Spain) focused on the unique capacity of the sector to promote sustainable and inclusive development, diversification and public-private partnership. The Congress was organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Catalan Tourism Agency (ACT), an Affiliate Member of the UNWTO.

An encouraging example is the gradual return of major sporting events, which is a major driver of the restart of tourism

At the opening ceremony, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili declared that the holding of this Congress, with a strong in-person participation, is a clear message that the tourism sector is ready to welcome tourists again, and the recovery of sports tourism plays an important role.

Pololikashvili added: "An encouraging example is the gradual return of major sporting events, which is a major driver of the restart of tourism."

For his part, the Minister for Business and Labour of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Roger Torrent, stressed that " this Congress can give rise to ideas that allow progress towards a more responsible and sustainable tourism thanks to diversification, differentiation and de-seasonalization ". In addition, he stated that tourism, and in particular sports tourism, can offer economic, employment and social opportunities that must be harnessed.

The Congress was attended in person by some   350 participants, and more than 150 followed it online. The most immediate challenges were discussed throughout the first day, ranging from the impact of COVID-19 and current trends in tourism demand and in the tourism market, to trends in sports, innovation in major sporting events, diversity and inclusion, and public-private governance strategies.

Looking to the future, the second day focused on the digital transformation of the sector and the phenomenon of e-sports, the promotion of digital marketing, the environmental framework and new research in the sector.

One of the most innovative aspects that the Congress brought was the deployment of two hologram booths in the proceedings  in order to have the participation of speakers who could not attend in person.

Work on Tourism and Sports is among the priorities of the UNWTO, especially in view of the necessary recovery of the sector in general.

The Congress featured more than 50 speakers--more than half of them in person--from Canada, Croatia, the United States, Spain, France, Wales, Italy and South Africa, among others. Among the speakers were prominent figures with recognized experience in the sports and tourism sectors, representing entities that are also UNWTO Affiliate Members such as Lavonne Wittmann, President of Skal International; Sonto Mayise, General Director of Tourism Kwazulu-Natal; Luis Valente, Head of Partnerships and Information at the FC Oporto Museum; Paraskevi Patoulidou, President of Thessaloniki Tourism Organization; Kattia Juarez-Dubón, Director of the International Sustainability Commission of the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM), and Lisa Delpy Neirotti, professor at George Washington University.

Related links:

  • Download the news release in PDF
  • World Sports Tourism Congress
  • Sports Tourism
  • Affiliate Members

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How does sport contribute to tourism?


Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors. It allows people to experience the world’s different cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity.

The many important contributions of tourism encouraged the  UN World Tourism Organization  ( UNWTO ) to institute World Tourism Day, celebrated annually since 1980 on 27 September, to highlight the importance of tourism and its impact on our society.

Tourism and sports

According to UNWTO , tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world, while sport is one of the world’s largest social phenomenon. As a professional or leisure activity, sport often involves travel to other places, to play and compete in various destinations. Further, major sporting events, such as the Olympics and various World Cups, have become powerful tourist attractions.

Sports tourism constitutes a large part of the tourism industry, with some sources claiming that a  quarter of all tourism in the world is sports-related. Sports tourism includes not only participation in and attending sporting events, but also personal recreational activities.

Statements from the World Tourism Organisation and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have highlighted the importance of sports tourism; in 2004, the organisations committed to reinforcing their partnership and collaboration in the sports tourism domain, stating :

“Tourism and sport are interrelated and complementary… both are powerful forces for development, stimulating investment in infrastructure projects such as airports, roads, stadiums, sporting complexes and restaurants- projects that can be enjoyed by the local population as well as tourists who come to use them.”

Sports tourism and sustainable development

Tourism is an essential pillar of the  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially  goals 8 ,  12 , and  14 . As a segment of tourism, sports tourism can also help achieve sustainable development .

At an economic level, sports tourism contributes to SDGs 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere) and 8 (promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all). Sports tourism promotes local businesses, creating demand in areas such as transportation, hotels and restaurants. Thus, local populations can avail jobs and income opportunities. Depending on the nature of the sports and experiences, local people can work as instructors and guides, who are likely to be paid more due to their special skills.

Further, sports tourism contributes to SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). Besides providing the tourists with sporting opportunities and an outlet for physical exercise, investment in sports tourism can also promote the participation of local populations in sporting activities.

Finally, sports tourism can also contribute to SDG 11 (make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Accessible sports tourism products like hand bikes provide access to sports opportunities for people with disabilities. Para-sport activities can be enjoyed by tourists and residents alike. The development of accessible sports tourism can improve accessibility in the destination city by the provision of not only sports products, but also accessible accommodation and transport. Furthermore, accessible sports tourism helps increase the understanding of people with disabilities in society.

Sports, tourism and sustainability

Sports federations, like the IOC, have realised the need for sustainable practices during mega sporting events. Thus, the IOC launched the International Federation (IF) Sustainability Project in 2016 to obtain an overview of their sustainability initiatives, identifying common topics, challenges and good practices. Building on the Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC Sustainability Strategy was developed in close cooperation with many stakeholders and partners to fundamentally shape the working practices of the IOC, the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement.

To develop synergies between the stakeholders so that sports and its facilities can be included in the local assets, it is necessary for decision-makers at all levels to understand their potential and agree to work together to set up sustainable development strategies. 

Host cities should target participants who are most likely to engage in sustainable behaviour while in the destination. This includes developing event portfolios geared towards sustainable event practices. The host city should also harness collaborative partnerships to foster social cohesion and build the capacity to increase sustainable practices.

From the design and construction of sports facilities and the way resources are managed, to valuing the natural environment and health and well-being of people, all decisions should be informed by sustainability principles. As the role and relevance of sport in today’s society continue to grow, progress can only be in cooperation and partnership with others, including the tourism industry.

  • Related article: Active tourism
  • Related article: How can fans support sustainability in sports?

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The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Society

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19 Sport, Tourism, and Social Impacts

Heather J. Gibson is a professor of tourism at the University of Florida. Her work cuts across the fields of leisure, tourism, and sport, with a focus on understanding behavioral choices in the context of gender, life span, and well-being. She authored some of the seminal papers in sport tourism and incorporated her focus on women and mid- and later life into the study of active sport tourism. She is a former managing editor of Leisure Studies and is an associate editor for the Annals of Tourism Research and the Journal of Sport & Tourism, among others.

Sheranne Fairley is an associate professor in the School of Business at the University of Queensland. Fairley’s research focuses on three major streams: sport and event tourism, volunteerism, and the globalization of sport. Her books include Rebranding and Positioning Australian Rules Football in the American Market (2009) and Renegotiating the Shanghai Formula One Event (2009, with K. D’Elia). She is editor-in-chief of the research journal Sport Management Review .

  • Published: 21 September 2022
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Scholarship in sport tourism began to gather speed in the late 1990s. Initially attention was on defining sport tourism and the economic impact of sport events. Calls to move scholarship from largely descriptive case studies to a theoretically informed body of work manifested in various ways. This chapter chronicles some of the developments in sport tourism scholarship over the past 20 years, with a focus on legacy and leveraging, social impacts, and small-scale events. In so doing, topics such as event portfolios, social capital, youth sport, and the impact of COVID-19 are discussed. The growth of event management as a discipline is examined in terms of its impact on sport tourism going forward. The authors note the touristic dimension in sport event research has often been missing or downplayed in recent studies, which raises questions about the long-term viability of sport tourism as an area of study.

As tourism became increasingly specialized in the 1990s, there was a growing recognition about travel associated with sport. Initially, when a group of scholars began to focus on sport tourism as an area of study, there was much debate around the definition of “sport tourism” (e.g., Gibson, 1998b ; Higham & Hinch, 2002 ; Weed & Bull, 2004 ). Through the years we have reached somewhat of a consensus that sport tourism breaks down into three main types: (1) travel to actively participate in sport, (2) travel to spectate at a sport event, and (3) travel related to nostalgia. The third form of sport tourism has always received less attention and has also been the most contested (e.g., Ramshaw & Gammon, 2005 ). Yet a quick review of the literature shows that there is an active group of scholars who have coalesced around this nostalgia/heritage sport tourism focus (e.g., Cho, Ramshaw, & Norman, 2014 ; Fairley, 2003 ; Ramshaw, 2020 ; Ramshaw & Gammon, 2005 ).

The first decade of sport tourism–related scholarship gave rise to two issues which are relevant to this chapter. The first was a focus on economic impact, primarily of sport tourism events (e.g., Daniels & Norman, 2003 ; Turco, 1998 ). This focus was not surprising, as communities were starting to use sport tourism as an economic development tool in the late 1990s, and many of these studies were commissioned by tourism agencies and emerging sports commissions. The second issue was a critique about the overly descriptive, atheoretical nature of early work (e.g., Gibson, 2004 ; Weed, 2006 ). However, the focus on description at this stage was not unexpected since the state of knowledge necessitated delimiting the area of study and conceptualizing and describing what comprised sport tourism. However, if, as sport tourism scholars, we were to move forward in developing this emerging area of study located at the intersection of sport management, tourism management, and leisure studies (this was the home to some of the early publications and themed conferences; cf. Gammon & Kurtzman, 2002 ), we needed to move into the next phase of knowledge development: understanding the how and the why ( Gibson, 2004 ).

At this stage we had not actively incorporated event management scholarship into this intersection. While Getz (1998) had written a paper on sport tourism in the event management context, event management had not penetrated sport and tourism management to the extent it has today. In fact, as we noted earlier, while our spectator sport tourists were called “event sport tourists” ( Gibson, 1998b ) in our early work, and while we were often researching sport tourism in event-related contexts (e.g., Higham & Hinch, 2002 , 2001 ; Ryan & Lockyer, 2002 ), the event was not the main focus. Today we have seen a definite shift in the prominence of the event context. This shift has been so extensive that the focus on sport tourism has been somewhat subsumed by the focus on sport events ( Gibson, 2017 ). Indeed, some may question the viability of this area of study going forward. Yet, at the same time, we can point to a resurgence of interest from practitioners and the industry, particularly in niche areas of sport tourism such as youth sports. Also evident is a growing interest among academics throughout Asia, particularly in China and Japan ( Dong, 2020 ; Hinch & Ito, 2018 ). As authors of this chapter, in reflecting back as well as projecting into the future, we are provided with an opportunity to examine some of the most significant developments in sport tourism research which helped to counter the early critiques of being atheoretical.

Responses to the critiques about lack of theory and being overly descriptive, as well as the focus on economic impacts, led us in two directions. First was the identification of appropriate concepts and theories that might enhance the explanatory power of sport tourism–related work to help us build a body of work that was sequential and could push our understanding forward. Weed (2006) , drawing upon Forscher’s (1963) classic treatise on “chaos in the brickyard,” challenged us to move beyond the individual case study approach to work toward building a cohesive body of knowledge about sport tourism. Gibson’s (2006) edited book, Sport Tourism Concepts and Theories, provided a compendium of potential theories that might be used to frame our work. Certainly, in the research on the active sport tourist there is evidence that scholars did heed the call to frame their work in appropriate theories. For example, Kaplanidou and Vogt (2007) used the Theory of Planned Behavior to understand participants in a cycling event. The concepts of involvement and enduring involvement, which have a long history in leisure studies, were applied to understand participation in Master’s Games ( Ryan & Lockyer, 2002 ) and travel to take part in running events ( McGehee, Yoon, & Cardenas, 2003 ), and were combined with a benefits-sought framework to investigate cycle tourists ( Gibson & Chang, 2012 ). A constraints framework, again from leisure studies, has been a popular approach to understanding participation patterns in snow sports ( Hudson, 2000 ; Williams & Fidgeon, 2000 ) and surfing tourism among women ( Fendt & Wilson, 2012 ), as has using serious leisure (Stebbins, 1982) to examine commitment and experiences in active sport tourism contexts (e.g., Shipway & Jones, 2007 ). Lamont, Kennelly, and Wilson (2012) added the idea that active sport tourists not only negotiate but prioritize constraints on their participation; they examined this within the event travel career framework proposed by Getz (2008) . Getz combined serious leisure (Stebbins, 1982) , Pearce’s (1998) travel career, and Unruh’s (1979) social worlds to develop the event travel career framework, which has spawned a series of studies on running ( Getz & Anderson, 2010 ) and mountain biking ( Getz & McConnell, 2011 ). Buning and Gibson (2015) proposed some further developments to what they called the active sport event travel career in their study of cycling within a U.S. context by providing more detail on career development and how this intersected with the events in which these cyclists chose to participate. Recently, Aicher, Buning, and Newland (2020) put more focus on the social worlds aspect of the active sport event travel career among runners and found that degree of immersion in the running social world shapes not only event participation but also related tourism behaviors.

These are only some of the conceptual approaches that have been used by researchers on active sport tourism; the application of these various frameworks has provided some unique insights into how and why active sport tourists participate in their various sports. More important, we have seen a shift in focus to understand the meanings and benefits that such participation has for these individuals, notably with a recent focus on the well-being associated with participation in active sport tourism ( Mirehie & Gibson, 2020 ). However, some notable gaps remain, particularly in that much of the focus on active sport tourism has not interrogated the sociostructural issues associated with participation, such as gender, race, and class ( Gibson & Mirehie, 2018 ). Active sport tourism is still mainly experienced by white, middle-class, and predominantly male participants, as was evident over 20 years ago, when some of the first papers were written ( Bordelon & Ferreira, 2019 ; Gibson, 1998a ). Another issue of importance is that there are few current researchers focusing on active sport tourism. This was evident in editing a special issue of the Journal of Sport & Tourism, where it took several rounds of the call for papers to attract a sufficient number of submissions ( Gibson, Lamont, Kennelly, & Buning, 2018 ). Of course, some of this can be attributed to researchers being pushed to publish in higher-impact journals, but the sister special issue “Sport Tourism and Sustainable Destinations” ( Hinch, Higham, & Moyle, 2016 ), for example, attracted enough papers for two issues. In delving more deeply into this topic, it is evident from the recent literature that there are an increasing number of studies on sport participation and also a growing focus on understanding the whys and hows of participation and links to health and well-being (e.g., Mirehie & Gibson, 2020 ). However, more troubling for sport tourism, is that many of these projects have ignored the touristic aspects of participation (e.g., Raggiotto & Scarpi, 2020 ), when we know that the very act of traveling not only contributes to well-being (e.g., Smith & Diekmann, 2017 ) but is part of the reason people take part in these events. So perhaps one pressing issue is that participation in event contexts may not be conceptualized and understood to its full extent without a focus on the touristic components of the experience.

As we reflect back on the original event sport tourism category, where the focus was on the hosting of events and spectators traveling to them, we can see that much research about the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games acted as a catalyst for the expansion of different disciplinary approaches to study sport tourism and events. The work of the Cooperative Research Center for Sustainable Tourism’s Sydney Olympics Tourism Impacts Study is a source of much of the work that we see today on leveraging and flow-on tourism (see Faulkner et al., 2001 ). The application of concepts from marketing and the call to reconceptualize our thinking away from impact to leveraging ( Chalip, 2004 ; Faulkner et al., 2001 ) were significant shifts in the way we think about events, and will be explored in more depth below. Additionally, in a project funded by the Australian Research Council, Green (2001) applied concepts from anthropology and proposed a sociocultural approach to understanding volunteering associated with Sydney 2000, at a time when much of the existing work was focused on volunteer motivation (e.g., Farrell, Johnston, & Twynam, 1998 ). Following the long tradition of focusing on resident responses to tourism, Waitt’s (2003) study on the sociological and social-psychological impacts of hosting the Olympics on Sydney residents reflected not only the growing focus on the social impacts of event hosting that were beginning to emerge at the time but also growing concerns from sociologists and others about the legacy of hosting these sport mega-events (e.g., Cashman, 2003 ; Preuss, 2007 ).

Within research on nostalgia sport tourism, the big issue has always been the legitimacy of this form of sport tourism ( Ramshaw & Gammon, 2005 ; Weed & Bull, 2004 ). The original conception of nostalgia sport tourism emanated out of Redmond’s (1991) work and was used to describe sport-related travel associated with visiting museums, sport halls of fame, stadium tours, and other sport-themed tourism ( Gibson, 1998b ). Fairley (2003) broadened this definition and noted that the nostalgia around sport tourism could be based on social experience rather than event or sport memory. Ramshaw and Gammon (2005) have suggested that nostalgia sport tourism is a form of heritage tourism and should be conceptualized as such. While this debate is not settled, scholars continue to work in this area and produce theoretically informed work pushing the boundaries of our knowledge on nostalgia. One such trend is to move beyond a focus on nostalgia relating to famous stadia or sports halls of fame to consider intangible forms of nostalgia such as the social experiences among longtime fans of a particular team or memories of significant sporting triumphs or losses as social nostalgia ( Fairley, 2003 ; Fairley, Gibson, & Lamont, 2018 ). Several key papers explore the idea that nostalgia is multidimensional, and we can see that, for the participants of these studies, nostalgia is linked to multiple attachments, such as family and identity ( Cho et al., 2014 ; Fairley et al., 2018 ). Indeed, as nostalgia gained prominence in the COVID-19 era, Gammon and Ramshaw (2020) suggested that nostalgia might be a coping mechanism people use to deal with changes in everyday life, such as stay-at-home orders enacted by many countries during spring 2020. Closer still to sport tourism, Weed (2020) mentions nostalgia as one of the key concepts in understanding the effects on and potentially the reshaping of sport and tourism in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With much of the contemporary focus on sport tourism residing largely within event contexts, we will devote this part of our chapter to a more in-depth focus on the conceptual approaches that have predominated in the sport-event tourism domain: (1) legacy versus leverage, (2) social impacts and social legacies, and (3) small-scale sport tourism events.

Legacy or Leverage?

Events are believed to provide benefits to destinations; however, research has suggested that these benefits do not occur as a matter of course ( Brown, Chalip, Jago, & Mules, 2002 ; Chalip, 2004 , 2006 ; Chalip & Leyns, 2002 ; O’Brien & Chalip, 2007 ). Economic impact studies provide mixed results ( Gratton, Dobson, & Shibli, 2000 ; Mules, 1998 ). Given the significant public investment in events like the Olympic Games, and rising questions about whether such events actually produce the touted benefits ( Maennig, 2007 ), scholars turned to event legacy. Event legacy focuses on long-term impacts from events ( Preuss, 2007 ). Specifically, Preuss defined legacy as “all planned and unplanned, positive and negative, tangible and intangible structures created for and by a sport event that remain longer than the event itself” (p. 211). Many potential types of legacies have been identified, including infrastructure, knowledge, policy, networks, sport, social capital, and environmental impacts ( Dickson, Benson, & Blackman, 2011 ; Preuss, 2015 ; Swart & Bob, 2012 ). Legacy assessments have been mixed; for example, Swart and Bob listed 33 positive and 39 negative legacies.

The International Olympic Committee included legacy in its charter in 2003, and since then potential host cities must detail a legacy plan in their bid documents ( Leopkey & Parent, 2012 ). Leopkey and Parent noted that while the first mention of legacy was found in the bid documents for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, the 2000s saw a significant increased focus on legacy effects among candidate cities. However, as Chalip and Heere (2013) suggest, host governments and event owners often use a narrative of legacy to legitimate significant public expenditures on sport events with little attention given to measurement and accountability. Indeed, basic questions arise about how and when one should assess whether a legacy has occurred. Further, many questions about who should be held accountable for legacy benefits remain unanswered. Most typically, public funds are spent before and during the event. Most committees formed to host events disband at their conclusion, and the stakeholders in the community responsible for making claims about the impacts and legacies of the events have often moved on to different roles by the time legacy is discussed and examined. As a consequence, legacy is often criticized as being mere rhetoric ( Tomlinson, 2014 ). In contrast, Chalip (2004) advocates for the use of an ex ante approach known as event leveraging, rather than the ex post approach that is legacy. Event leveraging focuses on strategic planning, views the event as the “seed capital,” and asks what a destination can do with an event to generate desired benefits ( O’Brien & Chalip, 2007 ). Chalip (2017 , p. 29) makes a good case that leveraging is of more use than legacy “because it focuses on strategic processes, rather than categories of outcome, and can thereby be applied across disparate contexts.”

Chalip’s (2004) original event leveraging model suggests that destination stakeholders can capitalize on the hosting of an event by strategically planning to capitalize immediate benefits from event visitors and trade, to entice visitor spending, lengthen visitor stays, and enhance business relationships. Further, destinations can use the opportunity to generate long-term benefits by utilizing the event-related media to showcase the destination and enhance its image. The leveraging framework includes identifying a leverageable resource, identifying the opportunities, creating strategic objectives from the opportunity, and developing means to achieve the objectives ( Chalip, 2004 ). Research on event leveraging has highlighted the need to consider culture, attitudes and beliefs, and systems and structures ( Chalip, Green, Taks, & Misener, 2017 ). Constraints and barriers to destinations leveraging events should also be considered; for example, host city contracts that involve commitments to global suppliers may prevent local businesses and tourism organizations from maximizing the value of the event to the local population ( Kelly, Fairley, & O’Brien, 2019 ).

Alternatively, an event portfolio approach, which is itself a leveraging strategy, changes the focus from singular events to a holistic and synergistic view of events at a destination ( Chalip, 2004 ; Getz, 2008 ; Ziakas, 2010 ). Specifically, event portfolios are based on “a series of interrelated events in terms of resources, theming, and markets which are strategically patterned on the basis of their operation and thematic readiness” ( Ziakas, 2014 , p. 329). The event portfolio facilitates the sharing of resources, collaborations, and cross-leveraging opportunities to achieve tourism outcomes ( Ziakas & Costa, 2011 ), while often considering the diversity of events, seasonality, and timing in selecting events ( Clark & Misener, 2015 ; Kelly & Fairley, 2018a ). The portfolio approach provides a balanced approach and opportunities for smaller events that may otherwise be overlooked ( Getz, 2008 ). Some destinations, however, may be dominated by one genre of event, such as sport events, as is the case of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Benefits from event portfolios are maximized only when strategic leveraging takes place ( Kelly & Fairley, 2018a ). The Sunshine Coast has one of the most recognized examples of this approach. As part of their strategic approach to leveraging their event portfolio, the Sunshine Coast has an established Events Board (with tourism, events, and government organizations represented) and an event strategy that outlines clear strategic goals. Guided by their event strategy, the Events Board provides advice to tourism and government organizations that direct funding for events. Additionally, long-term funding contracts and the provision of human resources to manage each transaction are used to establish long-term relationships between events and the destination.

Social Impacts and Social Legacies

Questions about legacies from sport mega-events generated a related line of research with a focus on social legacies. Chalip’s (2006) treatise on social leveraging and Misener and Mason’s (2006) work on building community networks and social capital were part of a “turning of the tide” from a focus on economic impact to more intangible outcomes from hosting events. The timing on this change of focus occurred when London had been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games and South Africa was getting ready to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and conversations were on legacy (for London 2012) and nation-building for South Africa. In the tourism journals, following the resident-impact line of inquiry, a body of knowledge about social impacts had emerged ( Fredline, 2005 ). For example, Gursoy and Kendall (2006) found that hosting mega-events, in this case the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, resulted in positive social outcomes such as increased pride, self-esteem, and community spirit. Enhanced pride and community spirit were again identified in South Korea’s hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup ( Kim, Gursoy, & Lee, 2006 ). Similarly, Ohmann, Jones and Wilkes (2006) found that Germany’s hosting of the 2006 FIFA World Cup instilled a sense of unity and national pride among its citizenry. Burgan and Mules (1992) had already invoked the concept of “psychic income” to describe this enhanced sense of pride, patriotism, and excitement, as expressed by residents of Brisbane in their hosting of the 1982 Commonwealth Games. Psychic income appeared to explain, at least during the event, why many of the negative impacts associated with hosting were forgotten as residents got caught up in the excitement and euphoria induced by the sporting competition. Similarly, as South Africa was getting ready for FIFA 2010, scholars reflected back on the 1995 Rugby World Cup and how President Nelson Mandela, as depicted in the movie Invictus , tried to establish a sense of collective spirit in the Rainbow Nation through rugby and advanced several treatises on nation-building through the hosting of such mega-events in the South African context (e.g., Labuschagne, 2008 ; Van Der Merwe, 2007 ). However, criticism associated with the 1995 Rugby World Cup pointed out that the collective spirit boost soon faded as the memory of winning the Cup diminished and the long history of challenges in that multiethnic nation was too complex to be solved by a sport event ( Van Der Merwe, 2007 ). Nonetheless, with the impetus shifting to a focus on legacy, in particular among politicians and event owners such as the IOC and FIFA, some scholars shifted their attention to the intangible outcomes of hosting under the umbrella term of “social impacts” or “social legacy” (e.g., Fredline, 2005 ; Minnaert, 2012 ; Prayag, Hosany, Nunkoo, & Alders, 2013 ; Schulenkorf, 2009 ).

This shift away from economic impacts, a focus often described as “disappointing” by residents (e.g., Kim, Gursoy, & Lee, 2006 ), pointed to needs for research to be sensitive to the more complex social and political micro-contexts of many hosting countries. Since the 1990s, sociologists, in particular, had been writing about the breakdown of community and social networks ( Putnam, 1995 ). There were also growing concerns about the increasing sociostructural divide and resulting increases in social inequality and the breakdown of social capital (e.g., Gould & Hijzen, 2016 ). Perhaps it is not surprising that governments started conceptualizing their mega-event hosting strategies in terms of building or rebuilding social cohesion. Waitt (2003) noted this with respect to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and Cornelissen, Bob, and Swart (2011) focused attention on South Africa’s nation-building goals in hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As stated earlier, the idea of building social capital through sport and events had already been raised (e.g., Misener & Mason, 2006 ). Several empirical studies emerged, evaluating the degree to which event hosting was linked to psychic income as the immediate emotional response but also to longer-term outcomes such as social capital (e.g., Gibson et al., 2014 ), building national identity among peoples with different ethnic identities ( Heere et al., 2014 ), happiness ( Hallman, Breuer, & Kuhnreich, 2013 ), and national well-being ( Kavetsos & Szymanski, 2010 ). While the research showed that the psychological response associated with hosting (psychic income) was indeed present, the longer-term goals of building social unity were often not met (e.g., Gibson et al., 2014 ). The missing part of these initiatives appeared to stem from the relative lack of social leveraging that was associated with the pursuit of these longer-term goals ( Chalip, 2006 ).

So while research on the social benefits of event hosting has grown and moved into the realm of sport for development (e.g., Schulenkorf, Thomson, & Schlenker, 2011 ) or has been used to examine volunteer legacies (e.g., Downward & Ralston, 2006 ), critiques over hosting these sport mega-events have escalated, so much so that the pool of potential host cities has considerably declined ( Sidhant, 2020 ). Critique levied at these sport mega-events is nothing new; in the sociology of sport, such a skeptical posture has a long tradition (e.g., Whitson & McIntosh, 1993 ). However, in the work in sport tourism in the late 1990s, some of these concerns became more central to inquiry in the emerging area of study focused on how tourism was associated with hosting these events. Higham (1999) , in a commentary paper, used this tradition of critiquing these mega-events as a point of departure to suggest focusing on another avenue of study in sport tourism events, that of small-scale event tourism.

Small-Scale Sport Tourism Events

As we said, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as communities began to invest in sport as a tourism development strategy, many of the early studies on these small-scale events were focused on economics ( Daniels & Norman, 2003 ; Turco, 1998 ). The tourism-event funding model at local levels is often based on investing public monies (tourist taxes generated from commercial lodging) into tourist ventures (e.g., hosting small-scale sport events) that generate economic activity for the community (i.e., return on investment). It is common for these event organizers to track hotel room nights and expenditure data from local businesses to demonstrate that these public monies have been used effectively. However, when leveraging strategies use grants to entice event managers to adopt a strategy designed to generate tourism, it may result in “mission drift” by shifting the event managers’ attention from their core purpose of staging the event ( Kelly & Fairley, 2018b ). When the focus of event managers shifts to tourism, they spend less time on the staging of their own event, leading to a product of lesser quality.

At the level of small-scale events in those early days, sports commissions, convention and visitors bureaus, as well as parks and recreation departments were encouraged to host sport events that would attract visitor spending from outside the community while making use of existing facilities and leveraging existing sport events ( Daniels & Norman, 2003 ; Higham, 1999 ). In the United States, calls were made to recognize the tourism value of college sports ( Gibson, Willming, & Holdnak, 2003 ); in New Zealand, Super 12 rugby was positioned as a way of counteracting seasonality in tourism ( Higham & Hinch, 2002 ); and motor sports were used to diversify tourism on the Gold Coast in Australia (e.g., Fredline & Faulkner, 1998 ). While each of these initiatives focused upon economic impacts, they also measured social impacts, such as the effects of event hosting on local communities ( Fredline, 2005 ) and understanding how sport tourists might be encouraged to engage in non-sport-related activities while visiting a destination, known as flow-on tourism ( Gibson et al., 2003 ).

By about 2010, hosting small-scale sport events for many communities had become a major part of their tourism strategies. Indeed, Gibson, Kaplanidou, and Kang (2012) argued that, for communities with sport facilities and a sport-centric culture, small-scale event sport tourism was a form of sustainable tourism development. We also saw a shift at this time in how event sport tourism was being conceptualized. Contrary to the earlier focus on spectators, the growth in travel for participatory sport events was a noticeable development ( Kaplanidou & Gibson, 2010 ). As we noted earlier, this gave rise to a line of research on sport-event participation experiences (e.g., Lamont et al., 2012 ; Shipway & Jones, 2007 ). Another development occurred at the community level as more communities recognized the economic potential associated with hosting small-scale sport events, particularly those featuring youth sport.

In 2019, it is estimated that sport tourists spent US $45.1 billion, including expenditures by venues and event organizers ( Sports ETA, 2019 ). Also in 2019, Wintergreen Research, Inc. reported that youth sport travel spending alone was estimated at U.S.$15 billion per year. In the meantime, some communities had invested heavily in new facilities to host these sport events, using both public monies as well as commercial investment. This resulted in a proliferation of “mega-complexes,” where sports facilities are combined with hotels and other guest services that specifically target traveling youth sport families ( Drape, 2018 ). While the youth sport industry understands the economic significance of this form of small-scale sport tourism and the local sports commissions and other agencies involved in hosting recognize that tourism is economically beneficial to their communities (a fact that was made abundantly clear when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted these contests [ Drape & Chen, 2020 ]), there has been little interest from academics on examining the tourism associated with youth sport for these families ( Garst, Gagnon, & Stone, 2019 ; Mirehie, Gibson, Kang, & Bell, 2019 ; Scott & Turco, 2007 ). Taks, Chalip, Green, Kesenne, and Martyn (2009) examined the flow-on tourism behaviors that take place as a result of some of the bigger youth sport tournaments. Still, the majority of research on youth sport participation has largely omitted consideration of tourism impacts. Indeed, costs associated with mandated travel have increased the time, money, and resources needed to participate in youth sport, disproportionally affecting those who lack the finances to participate (e.g., Knight & Holt, 2013 ).

Despite some of the growing concerns over the “big money” in youth sport, we still suggest that small-scale sport events have more positive potential for both communities and participants. As Higham (1999) suggested over 20 years ago, such events can bypass many of the negatives associated with hosting sport mega-events. Not surprisingly, research on sport-event participation has grown in tandem with more communities finding benefits in hosting participatory sport events. However, as noted, when considering active sport tourism, the focus on participation has come with reduced focus on understanding the touristic nature of small-scale sport events (e.g., Raggiotto & Scarpi, 2020 ). Further, returning to our earlier discussion on leveraging, Kennelly (2017) finds few event organizers understand how to effectively leverage their events to maximize both tourism benefits and participation experience. Much remains for future inquiry into this dynamic.

Our narrative shows that, over 20 years after study on the topic began, there is a body of theoretically informed work on various aspects of sport tourism, some of which has been accomplished in partnership with relevant agencies. However, the biggest debate today appears to be over the continued relevance of sport tourism in Western academic communities, particularly in light of the ascendance of event management in relation to both tourism management and sport management. Where is the focus on tourism in much of the contemporary research on events in general, and sport events in particular? We even have diverging opinions on this ourselves. It may be that our assessments stem from our different geographical contexts. While Australia is a more strategic leader in cohesive planning of sport events and event tourism, in the United States the importance of tourism in events varies widely depending on whom you are talking to, and event management and planning is largely dispersed among small independent agencies. In Australia, tourism and events often sit together within one organization; for example, Tourism and Events Queensland is a state statutory body in charge of events and tourism in Queensland.

One notable development since the mid- to late 1990s, when we saw the first coalescence around sport tourism, has been the rising prominence of events, both as an industry sector and an academic area of study. As a field, events and event management is claimed by hospitality, tourism, sport management, recreation, and event management in and of itself. The discipline housing degree programs or the events sector you work in will shape how you view tourism’s role in events. Not surprisingly, tourism academics tend to think of events as “just tourism.” Often they cannot understand why, over the past 10 years in university settings, students have been gravitating to event management degrees in such numbers that concerns have grown over the decrease in student enrollment in tourism programs. In fact, many of these event management students have no interest in tourism, as they do not see it as relevant to their future jobs as event planners.

In sport management degree programs, where there has been an appreciation of sport tourism for over 20 years, we have also seen a move away from the tourism aspects of sport events. Thus, while sport event management has grown in emphasis, both as an academic degree component and an area of research, we risk losing tourism, and by extension sport tourism, as an area of academic focus in parts of the world that were first associated with this area of study. A significant exception is continued growing interest in sport tourism from governments and scholars in the East, most notably in Asia. However, while it is encouraging to see scholars from a broader range of countries focusing on sport tourism, some of the earlier critiques about overly descriptive and atheoretical work remain. We hope, as was the case with our work in the late 1990s, that this turn of interest will fuel a new phase of research. There is promise for new ideas and approaches that can push the boundaries of our understanding about sport tourism in these countries, rather than emulating studies published in Western contexts over the past 20 years. Of course, we hope that this emergent stimulus of interest will be helpful in reframing and bringing culture-specific considerations more forward on the research agenda.

Another resilient area of debate surrounds the notion of leveraging, and the extent to which both academics and practitioners understand what it entails. As Kennelly (2017) found in her study of participatory events in the United Kingdom, few event organizers understood the need to leverage their events. This mirrors Chalip and Leyns’s (2002) conclusion almost 20 years ago in their studies about leveraging sport events on the Gold Coast in Australia. As journal reviewers and editors, we know that it is not uncommon to see manuscripts that claim to have a focus on leveraging, but in reality the focus remains on questions of impact rather than on how event-related actors devise and implement strategies to leverage outcomes from an event.

A new twist in discussions of sport mega-events that lead us to the legacy and leveraging debate is concern over the costs and resources devoted to hosting these events. In particular, there is growing concern that countries from the developing world are bidding for and hosting large-scale events; some observers suggest that it is irresponsible to burden such countries (or any country) with unnecessary debts given unrealistic expectations of benefits ( Dowse & Fletcher, 2018 ). Indeed, these bids are often motivated by unproven claims about economic benefits ( Whitson & Horne, 2006 ), with limited mention that the major beneficiaries of such events are most typically the elites, while everyday taxpayers are left with sometimes considerable burdens (e.g., Tomlinson, 2014 ).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on sport, tourism, and sport tourism. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed, and many other international and domestic sport events have been postponed or canceled. Just how sport tourism will recover remains unknown. Some professional sports have received special dispensation from governments to continue play despite state and national restrictions on social distancing and travel. For example, the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League have resumed playing in Australia, with some teams being forced to relocate to another state in order to continue playing, and strict protocols around social contact with others. Likewise, in the United States, the National Basketball Association has created a “bubble” at the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports to finish a season that was interrupted by the sudden stay-at-home orders in spring 2020.

In tourism, the economic fallout from the pandemic has been particularly acute, as many countries have created tourism-centric economies since the previous global disruptions on tourism flows in the early to mid-2000s. Since 2014, international tourism had resumed exponential growth each year and in some parts of the world had reached a crisis point of too many visitors, a condition referred to as “overtourism” ( Weber, 2017 ). The almost complete shutdown of international tourism in April and May 2020 showed residents of these tourism-receiving communities what local life is like without hordes of visitors ( Haywood, 2020 ). Some have suggested that tourism in these communities could be reenvisioned ( Haywood, 2020 ), although the economic realities of having little to no tourism have also become apparent. Will the economic imperatives win out?

Similar discussions have been occurring in the youth sport world, led by the Aspen Institute’s (2015) Project Play ( Farrey, 2020 ). Without organized sport, physical activity during the early days of the pandemic-related lockdowns increased in outdoor venues such as parks and empty streets, and people of all ages rediscovered cycling and walking ( Ding, del Pozo Cruz, & Green, 2020 ; Venter, Barton, Gundersen, Figari, & Nowell, 2020 ). The number of youth in organized sport has been declining over the past decade (e.g., Aspen Institute, 2015 ); will the pandemic exacerbate this downward trend? Many U.S. youth sport tournaments were held despite public health concerns ( Allentuck, 2020 ).

In bringing this chapter to a close, it is time to think about the future of inquiry of sport tourism by reflecting on our dual critiques of early work in sport tourism for being too focused on economics and for being too often atheoretical. First, we should make clear that we still believe there is a role for economic-focused work. In the post-COVID-19 era, using a cost-benefit analysis to examine the economic returns from sport tourism initiatives for communities will be imperative ( Mules & Dwyer, 2005 ). For associated industries and communities, accurate estimates of economic impact will be needed to guide policy and engender support from government and residents alike. However, one lesson from research on sport events over the past 20 years is that economic benefit cannot be assumed. This is most particularly the case for the larger events involving major infrastructure development and the multilevel disruption of life for host communities.

As our discussion in this chapter has shown, there has been a two-pronged approach, centered on legacy and leveraging, to event-related research. While our knowledge had advanced in these two areas, Chalip and Fairley (2019) argued in the introduction to their special issue of the Journal of Sport & Tourism that there is still a need for a strategic approach to leveraging. Understanding the principles of leveraging and building partnerships remains limited as event organizers are understandably preoccupied with planning and executing the event itself. Thus, going forward, we suggest that there is still much work to be done in untangling the principles of leveraging and how best to apply them in sport tourism and event management. If we are to continue to stage sport mega-events in the face of increased opposition from potential host cities, a shift from legacy to leveraging is warranted. Citizens deserve accountability and return on investment from their backing of these events. The need to revisit the ethics of hosting is in line with the growing call for attention to sustainability in sport and tourism generally, and in event hosting in particular.

This returns us to a discussion about the size and scale of events for communities. Proponents of small-scale events have demonstrated that while they are not perfect, their strategic use offers the prospect of a balanced event portfolio ( Ziakas, 2014 ), whereby communities can host events that complement their image as a destination ( Chalip & Leyns, 2002 ) and use existing facilities and infrastructure ( Gibson et al., 2012 ). Such strategies may offer the best way forward for many communities.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the first events communities returned to were for youth. Because of this, the larger events industry has come to recognize that the pandemic has opened the door to the need to think differently about events and how they might be staged. For example, eSports, one of the new genres in the sport industry before the pandemic, held in-person competitions with live audiences. During the pandemic, the integration of new technologies into people’s lives during spring/summer 2020 has raised questions about the changing expectations of hosting and attending events. For example, does the next eSports event need to be held in person at a convention center, or can it be held virtually?

On another technology-driven front, the integration of AI generally in tourism has gathered speed during the pandemic. While we are not suggesting that in-person participation in sports (for spectators and athletes) or traveling will disappear, accepted ways of doing things changed drastically in January 2020. As in the work of Project Play ( Farrey, 2020 ) and in youth sport after COVID-19, the wider tourism and events industries have also been reenvisioning the future (e.g., UN World Tourism Organization, 2020 ).

While we do not envision that people will stop traveling, attending sport events, and participating in sport tourism in person, we have seen glimpses of new ways of participation, such as virtual marathons. However, we have also seen more people cycling and (re)discovering participating in physical activities outside ( Venter et al., 2020 ). To what extent will this continue and reshape the sport tourism opportunities that are offered? Over the past few years, the IOC has sanctioned the inclusion of skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing in the Olympic Games as a way of reaching the younger generations, some of whom have turned away from traditional (Olympic) sports ( Farrey, 2020 ). At the recreational level, the growing popularity of ultramarathons, adventure racing, and mud runs and the rise in interest in cycling and running may continue to reshape sport tourism offerings as more people seek to compete and socialize with other participants in greater numbers. It is possible that as some of those individuals who became engaged in physical activity during the pandemic enter higher levels of commitment, they may be encouraged to seek participation in sport tourism opportunities (e.g., Buning & Gibson, 2015 ; Getz & McConnell, 2011 ).

We think there has definitely been some progress in the theoretical development of work in sport tourism, both deductively and inductively. Here, new theoretical suppositions have been proposed, such as the event travel career ( Getz, 2008 ), and there has been some refinement advanced through grounded theory applications, such as the active sport event travel career ( Buning & Gibson, 2015 ). Further, we have seen promising refined approaches to leveraging in small-scale sport settings ( Kelly & Fairley, 2018b ; Kelly et al., 2019 ) and explorations of the multidimensional nature of nostalgia ( Cho et al., 2014 ) in sport tourism. However, as Chalip and Fairley (2019 , p. 157) note about the tendency for a focus on sport events beginning to dominate the sport tourism knowledge base, “Although we have learned a great deal in recent years about ways to enhance the policy utility of sport events, the field remains undertheorized and overly general.” We concur, but we also revert to an essential question we raised earlier: Will research on sport events continue to subsume sport tourism, or will sport event researchers rediscover the integral role that tourism plays in these events, both on the demand and supply sides of event experiences?

Aicher, T. , Buning, R. , & Newland, B. ( 2021 ). Running through travel career progression: Social worlds and active sport tourism.   Journal of Sport Management , 27 (1), 32–44 .

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The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors affecting sport tourism marketing mix. The research method was descriptivecorrelation and the statistical sample consisted of 265 sport tourists attended at Azadi stadium in Tehran for watching a football game between Esteghlal and Persepolis that were selected through clustering technique. The research instrument was a questionnaire developed by Shonk (2006). The face and content validity was approved by sport management experts and the reliability was verified by Cronbach's alpha (α=0/89). The SPSS16 was used for description of variables, and LISREL software was used for conducting Confirmatory Factor Analysis. The result showed that "product" had the most effect on sport tourism marketing mix. "Physical evidences" was the next important variable influencing sport tourism marketing mix. Moreover, "promotion", "people", "process", "price", and "place" had significant effects on sport tourism marketing mix. According to the results it can be concluded that according to sport tourists' view point, "product" and "physical evidences" had more importance. Product includes quality of sport contests and its' related components, and physical evidence refers to the quality of sport stadium and its' related factors. Also, other variables such as promotion, people, process, price and place had significant effect on the sport tourism marketing mix that should be taken in granted in sport tourism management context.

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Sport Tourism Events and Local Sustainable Development: An Overview

  • First Online: 11 April 2021

Cite this chapter

sport et tourism promotion

  • Ricardo Melo 5 ,
  • Derek Van Rheenen 6 &
  • Claude Sobry 7  

Part of the book series: Sports Economics, Management and Policy ((SEMP,volume 18))

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Until recently, sport and tourism were studied as two distinct spheres of activity. However, the intersections between these two social phenomena have been gradually increasing, and the growing demand for travel related to sport has created the need for a new tourism segment, referred to as sports or sport tourism. The relationship between sport and tourism has also drawn considerable attention to the potential and real environmental, economic, and sociocultural impacts of these activities, both positive and negative. This chapter provides a review of scholarship to date, with particular focus on the linkages between small scale sport tourism events and local sustainable development. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the evolution of the sport tourism field, highlighting key conceptualizations and categorizations. It then discusses the predominant descriptions and categories of sport tourism events. Next, the chapter analyzes the meaning and practice of sustainable development at the intersection of sport and tourism, with particular emphasis on small scale sport tourism and local sustainable development. Finally, the chapter calls for a comparative methodology to provide a tool for sport tourism scholars globally.

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While earlier definitions of tourism limited such activities to leisure or vacation, business travel can also include facets of tourism distinct from one’s work.

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Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra - Coimbra Education School (IPC-ESEC), Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra (CES-UC), Centre for Tourism Research, Development and Innovation (CiTUR), IRNIST, Coimbra, Portugal

Ricardo Melo

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Derek Van Rheenen

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Melo, R., Van Rheenen, D., Sobry, C. (2021). Sport Tourism Events and Local Sustainable Development: An Overview. In: Melo, R., Sobry, C., Van Rheenen, D. (eds) Small Scale Sport Tourism Events and Local Sustainable Development. Sports Economics, Management and Policy, vol 18. Springer, Cham.

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