Pack your jerseys. The era of ‘sports tourism’ is here

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Start the engines. From Formula One races to the Summer Olympics, travel to attend major sporting events is on the rise.

It is one of the so-called sports tourism. The fastest growing sectors in the travel industryAccording to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The market is vast, and it’s only growing, says Lisa Delpy Nerotti, professor and director of the sports management program at George Washington University.

“As long as there are new opportunities to play and compete, the sports tourism market will continue,” she said. “The numbers are all over the place, so it’s hard to get a good number. The big takeaway is that it’s big and growing.”

Sports tourists spend money staying in hotel rooms, eating at restaurants, filling up gas tanks, shopping at local shops and visiting other tourist attractions, said Delpi Neroti.

More professional teams are playing in international venues, and their fans are following them, Delpi Neroti said. She said that this can be done through social media and word of mouth.

“The Padres played in Mexico City and had a huge fan base — the same for the NFL in Germany or the MLB in London,” she said. “It gives people or enthusiasts a reason to plan a trip and travel.”

England fans celebrate at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Brisbane, Australia on August 07, 2023.

Justin Setterfield Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

For some countries, these events are an opportunity to raise their international status.

“Saudi Arabia — like China, Qatar and others — are using sports to promote their country — not just to the participants, but to everyone watching the broadcast or stream,” she told CNBC Travel.

In particular, Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in football and golf, recruiting famous athletes such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Dustin Johnson to the kingdom.

Critics argue that Saudi Arabia is doubling down on sports to gain international favor and rehabilitate its international image – a practice it has “labelled”.Sports washSaudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed it in an interview with Fox News in September.

For low season play

A major goal of sports tourism is to increase travel, especially during slow or shoulder periods, Delpi Neroti said.

Lewis Hamilton interacts with fans outside the paddock at the Singapore F1 Grand Prix on September 17, 2023.

Kim Ellman | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

Marking the end of summer travel, September is known as the “shoulder season” month. However, Singapore hotel rates rise to $590 Singapore dollars ($440) on the weekend of the annual Formula One race, when most hotels are more than 90% booked, according to hospitality and travel software company Adara-A RateGain.

Adara president Jay Wardle said: “It’s interesting that some hotels can command prices as high as SG$800.

The most popular events of 2023

This year, various countries have boosted their host economies by hosting major sporting events that attract tourists.

of ICC Men’s Cricket World CupIt is expected to be held from October 5 to November 19 To increase between 180 to 220 billion Indian rupees (around $2.1 to $2.6 billion) for the Indian economy, an analysis by the Bank of Baroda Economics Research Unit.

Indian fans during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 at the Narendra Modi Stadium in November 19, 2023.

Robert Cianflone ​​| Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

The 19th Asian Games, held in China from September 23 to October 8, sold more than 3 million tickets, generating more than 610 million yuan ($85 million). According to Chinese media. It brought in another $107 million from merchandise sales and an additional $623 million from sponsorships from 176 companies.

Meanwhile, FIFA President Gianni Infantino he said. This year’s Women’s World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in August, grossed more than $570 million.

Indonesia hosts this year’s MotoGP in October, while France hosts the Rugby World Cup from August to September. The tennis Grand Slam tournaments have attracted the world’s attention, as have the international Formula One races – including the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which concluded on November 18.

Companies that cater to sports fans is joining forces with Major League Baseball to make it easier for traveling fans to find hotels near ballparks in the United States.

Patrick Smith | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

The travel + leisure company and Sports Illustrated Resorts have announced plans to open a network of sports-focused resorts in America’s college towns. The first in Tuscaloosa, Alabama — home to the University of Alabama — will open in late 2025.

Travel experience booking website GetYourGuide says that sports-focused bookings have increased by 130% since 2019, with the majority of bookings coming from travelers in the UK (37%), US (20%), Germany (17%) and France (15%). .

The most popular this year include sports-related experiences UK McLaren Technology Center ToursBoston’s Fenway Park and New York City’s Madison Square Garden, according to the company.

Get the VIP treatment

But some sports tourists want more.

Luxury travel company AMPM It costs an $8,000 annual fee for a “regular membership” and $30,000 for a more in-depth “elite membership.”

For the price, the company can get members access to glamorous events like New York Fashion Week and the US Open, a company representative told CNBC Travel.

No longer content with attending the Olympic Games, some fans want to visit the Olympic Village and meet and greet participants.

Ryan Pierce | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

“Other sports experiences we have in store for our members include F1 track experiences – including exclusive members-only paddock access – NBA court tickets, locker room access,” said company founder Lauren Baud.

She said the company can arrange helicopter rides and post-game field access for major sporting events.

another company, GR8also organizes. Once-in-a-lifetime luxury experiences for travelers. It is fielding requests for the 2024 Summer Olympics in France, including seating for the opening ceremony, access to the Olympic Village and meet-and-greet sessions with athletes and coaches, a company representative told CNBC Travel.

The company also organizes exclusive access to the Kentucky Derby, Grand Slam tennis tournaments and the Super Bowl, according to its website.

But he has recently set his sights on another market.

“GR8 is receiving many requests to bring sporting events to Asia,” said Barnabas Carrega, CEO and co-founder of GR8. Continent.

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