The Strong Performance of the Sports Tourism Sector and Rising Resident Sentiment of Sport

 Posted on: January 30 2023
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By: Jennifer Stoll, PhD, Principal, Stoll Strategies and Research Director for Sports ETA & Tammy Koerte, Senior Research Manager, Longwoods International

Co-published with our partners at Longwoods International, our latest white paper, “The Strong Performance of the Sports Tourism Sector and Rising Resident Sentiment of Sport,” looks at the strength of sports tourism in this post-pandemic world and its support among communities, sports organizations and participants.

First, let’s take a look back at sports tourism. As of 2021, sports events and tourism comprised $39.7 billion in direct spending, $12.9 billion in tax revenue and a total economic impact of $91.8 billion in the U.S., according to Sports ETA data. This bounce back from the pandemic outpaced many other industry sectors, including pharmaceuticals, oil and gas extraction, and others.

In 2021, more than 175 million Americans traveled for sports-related reasons, just 2.6% below the industry peak in 2019. And the resident sentiment study conducted by Longwoods in the summer of 2022 showed even stronger support of sports tourism than the last survey in 2020.

For example, 60% of those responding to this most recent survey agreed that youth and amateur sporting events benefited their local economies, and more than half said these events improved the quality of life in their communities. The West and Northeast were very bullish on youth sports, as 60% of Western U.S. respondents recognized the economic benefits of youth and amateur events, an 11 point increase over the 2020 survey.

And support for sporting events among Generation Z (ages 18-25) has jumped over the last couple of years. While older Americans are generally supportive of sporting events, the support from Gen Z and Millennials jumped exponentially since the 2020 report. Three years ago, only 30% of Gen Z supported hosting college or professional events, and 28% were in favor of outdoor sporting events. In the latest survey, that support jumped to 45% and 49%, making it especially important to draw younger participants to these events.

So what can communities do to strengthen their support and grow their sports tourism opportunities? Our report shows that it’s important to raise awareness for the events within the communities and prioritize local participation so residents feel they have a ‘stake’ in the events. This can be achieved by involving local residents as volunteers for the events and working with local media partners for PSA campaigns to promote the events. 

Another suggestion is to develop events that are true assets for the community. Sports tourism should be able to use existing infrastructure, generate consistent visitor numbers and use the sporting events to improve the quality of life as well as the economic base of the host community. 

In summary, the pandemic brought new opportunities for non-traditional, individual and outdoor sporting activities as Americans looked at health and wellness with a new perspective. As sports tourism continues to flourish, communities have the opportunity to maximize resources, enhance quality of life and add to the area’s economic bottom line. 

Download and read the full white paper, The Strong Performance of the Sports Tourism Sector and Rising Resident Sentiment of Sport, HERE.

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