National Sports Policy – Sports Tourism

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The Government has sought input from those with an interest in Irish Sport on how to frame a new national Sports policy for the next decade.  

This is the first time in 20 years that such a framework will be adopted at Government level and it is a crucial opportunity to put sport into its important context as part of overall Government thinking.

The Key Areas of interest and the Sport for Business views on each are as follows:

How can the objectives of the sport and tourism sectors be married?

Without overstating the importance of one to the other there is a natural benefit to be gained from alignment.  With both sectors reporting to the same Government Department this can be done without the constraint of cross Government co-operation.

Enabling and encouraging both sides to see the benefit to themselves and wider society form a shared approach should be central to Department thinking.

Are stakeholders aware of the current structure and supports available to attract events to Ireland?

Increasingly so.  The traditional financial support through sponsorship of events like the Irish Open and the Dublin Horse Show had created a false expectation that Government money could be funnelled through Tourism agencies.

It has taken time to adjust those expectations and to move thinking towards attainable targets which can lead to more, such as the example of Paralympics and Basketball Ireland both of whom have won congress events first, managed them well and were rewarded (or will be shortly) with European Championships.

What changes would stakeholders make to the structure and supports available?

Focus on research and feasibility so that we can pick our events to target and show off Ireland’s strength as a host nation in terms of welcome, access, Government and widespread public support.

What type of events should Ireland seek to attract in order to ensure its fair share of the global sports tourism market?

We should look to make the most of our natural infrastructure and emphasis the appeal of our physical environment.

The growth in appeal of adventure racing, mountain biking and surfing all play to sporting arenas that require no complex planning or construction schedules and are spread across the country.

There is already a strong reputation among competitors for what ireland has to offer and while the structures of such sporting pursuits may be more difficult to influence through traditional ways of engagement, supporting those who are putting on events that attract mass participation as well as valuable media coverage can generate substantial long term benefit.

Where should Ireland position itself in order to attract sports tourism?

There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  The elements of our national identity that have long been the mainstay of tourism promotion, those of hospitality, physical environment and history all equally apply to a sports tourism audience.

We have proven we can host major events, we have a National Sports Campus that provides central facilities for competitors that are a match for most countries and we have a Government structure that can act quickly and collaboratively to deliver a ‘whole package’.

Regular calendar events such as in College Football can provide substantial tourism opportunities within key market segments as well.

The College Football Classic held in Dublin on a two year cycle of late attracts major business tourists and provides a high level of influential visitor impact.

Does sport have a role in achieving regionality and seasonality objectives in tourism? Can we attract more sports tourists to destinations outside Dublin and during the shoulder season? How can this be achieved?

Attracting sports tourism is in large part dependent on events and if we are attracting these from an existing schedule then we have to adapt to a global calendar.  This will impact on the ability to shift seasonal patterns.

Regionality though is very much an area that sport can play a part.

The growing infrastructure in terms of access that has been developed to open up the Wild Atlantic Way is well suited to adventure opportunities in sailing, endurance running and cycling and sport can complement the experience side of the tourism sector by focusing on those who take part as opposed to those who come to watch.

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