Black Meetings and Tourism

July/August 2014

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B M & T ••• July/August 2014 ••• 40 ports Tourism is an estimated $600 billion a year industry and growing so fast, its proving difficult to quantify with any degree of certainty. But for those destinations that embrace sports tourism as an emerg- ing market sector within our industry, it's proven to be a substantial source of travel and tourism dollars and a public relations windfall. Despite the internal problems widely reported at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the long- term financial rewards are substantial when you take into account the public relations value of a well-run event. There's also return visitor impact and local employment. Several reports suggest the World Cup added anywhere from $3 to $5 billion to Brazil's GDP and created one million new jobs. For Brazil, that's just the beginning as they are also the host country for the 2016 Summer Olympics. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, several destinations' total sports tourism rev- enues are as high as 25-percent of all tourist dollars generated. While the United States is the pre- miere sports tourist destination, many of our friends and neighbors around the world are creating new opportuni- ties at a rapid pace. One good example is The Bahamas. According to The Bahamian Ministry of Tourism office, approximately 85- percent of their visitors come from the United States. Seizing on a wonderful opportunity to increase The Bahamian sports tourism brand, the Ministry of Tourism office has formed partner- ships with some of America's leading sports entities. They have deals with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the HBCUX where they'll play host to the Historic Black College Football Classic between Central State University and Texas Southern University in mid- September, the Miami Heat, the Florida Panthers and NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. "These partnerships are designed to create, attract and retain signature sporting events and ultimately formu- late others," according to The Bahamian Ministry of Tourism. This past May The Bahamas hosted the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federation) Relays at Thomas A. Robinson Stadium in Nassau and was featured on ESPN. This stadium has a seating capacity of 30,000 depending on configuration. Many Bahamian born athletes have strong ties to the United States, none more so than Mychal Thompson, former Portland Trailblazer and Los Angeles Laker great. He recently hosted the Mychal "Sweet Bells" Golf Challenge on Grand Bahamas Island. Thompson is also the color commentator for Los Angeles Laker games and his son Klay plays for the Golden State Warriors. For those of us who have had the privilege of listening to Thompson on talk radio in Los Angeles, Thompson's love affair with his home country is contagious. It is these and other oppor- tunities that are driving Bahamian sports tourism to new heights and they are not afraid to take advantage of their celebrity connections. Former Los Angeles Laker great Rick Fox is also of Bahamian descent and has been featured in a series of commercials promoting Bahamas tourism. BY MICHAEL BENNET T S

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