Let's Play Ball
ot everybody plays sports. A lot of people would much rather do anything other than watch athletes chase, bounce, hit, or throw a ball. There are plenty of casual physical activities like fishing, diving, or hot dog eating that people would enjoy better; however, for the sake of this article we are referring to the type of physical activities that are played competitively and that are organized by governing bodies. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the world which means that the FIFA World Cup is one of the most watched sporting events on the globe. In 2022, 1.5 billion people tuned in to watch the final match. Other popular major sports include track & field, basketball, volleyball, cricket, tennis, boxing, and golf. In 2020, the global sports industry was worth approximately $1.3 trillion with the sector including sports facilities, ticket sales, broadcasting rights, and sports merchandise. According to the United Nations World Tourism Association (UNWTO), mega events such as the Olympic games and world cups have become powerful tourism attractions. People will travel as spectators or as participants. Sporting events are a catalyst for tourism development if the branding, infrastructure, and socio-economic developments are managed properly. Herein lies the intersection between sports and the tourism industry. More people have become interested in sporting activities during their trips and sports tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism. While Belize is not exactly an international sporting power, Belizeans enjoy playing, watching, and debating sports, popular athletes, and annual athletic events. The highlights featured on Sports Monday on Channel 5 are all the news some Belizeans need. Sports are about power, passion, drive, suspense, intensity, and the occasional miraculous live-game comeback that only the sports gods can cook up. Sports and tourism are interrelated and they complement each other. Like them or not, sporting events help to drive tourism.
Even the people who do not play organized sports understand the value of competiveness. Sports tourism can be defined as the pursuit of either observing or participating in sporting events while away from one’s usual environment. Sports tourism can help to elevate Belize’s existing position in the international tourism market and improve our regional competiveness. Sports tourism can generate new business opportunities and be a catalyst for economic, social, and community developments. If Belize’s sports tourism goals can be aligned with the BTB’s National Tourism Policy, the GOB’s development plans, and the SDGs, growth in the sport tourism sector may successfully contribute to health, education, gender equality, and social cohesion. Sports is community focused and meant for locals while tourism is predominantly about providing commercial activities for foreigners. Sports can pull tourists to a destination while tourism can help to provide funding and infrastructure for sports development- the relationship is symbiotic. The BTB will continue to play a key role in developing sports tourism in Belize beyond using just its promotional power and prowess. At the link between government and the private sector, the BTB’s leverage is its relationship with key stakeholders in the tourism and sporting communities. As our tourism industry develops so should our sports and vice versa.
The sports and tourism sectors have different and unique objectives and stakeholders but that is not to say we are not all on the same team. This week we highlight the “bump-ism” in our tourism. This –ism is not only for all the bump passes that will happen this week at the Civic Centre in Belize City where Belize is hosting the XIV Central American U-19 Female Volleyball Championship, but also because more investments in our sports tourism can bump up our place in the region as a tourism destination. Like sports or not, it pairs well with our tourism. The ball is in our court so let’s play.
See you next week.
The Belize Tourism Board