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Exploring sports tourism for destination planning

Dr. Josep-Francesc Valls, invited professor at Universidade Madeira

Dr. Luis Mota, UMA Prof. Adjunto Convidado at Universidade Madeira

Mara Franco, researcher at Universidade Madeira

Dr. Sergio Teixeira, researcher at Universidade Madeira


In the same way that culture, gastronomy, heritage or business, sport tourism brings value to the brand of a destination, which serves to attract tourists motivated by sport-show or sport-activity, who can travel and make an expense higher than they would make in another tourist activity in the territory.

This paper establishes the relationship between sport and tourism at the service of the brand of a tourist destination, considering the customers, the type of sportive events that best fit the tourism model, the system of organizing events, the necessary infrastructures and the economic, social and environmental benefits, applied to the case of Madeira

Key words: Event organization; quiet sports activities; slow tourism; sport consumers; sport tourism; sustainability.


The globalization of the economy has placed sports tourism in the most relevant contemporary mass phenomenon. The events and the practice of sports amalgamate the show, the industry and marketing. The spectators of sports events in the stadiums, those who view them at home or in public places, the video game fans, on the one hand, the practitioners of the different activities, on the other, and those who travel to places where they are celebrated or sporting events have elapsed, finally, they are shaping a new culture of healthy living, a new model of playful life and community living: active citizenship (Sport England, 1999), which generates numerous businesses. Sport has become a determining factor in the offer of tourist destinations. This facilitates the differentiation and at the same time be more competitive in the international framework (Latiesa, 2006)

In the middle of the digital revolution, innovation has reached this growing sector, applying Big Data and algorithms to customer analysis; to urbanism and the design of the facilities where the tests are carried out; to infrastructures, services and materials; to training, to food and nutritional products of athletes, to health and rehabilitation; to the organization and management of events; to services, channels, media and video games; and to the analysis of the profitability generated by these events.

In this way, it has become one of the main drivers of the economic development of destinations, to the extent that it contributes an increasing percentage of tourists and becomes a determining element of the brand image of the destination. The multiplier effect of sport reaches 1.22% in the EU countries, accounting for 1.76% of the EU Gross Value Added (GVA) comparable to agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined, and represents 2.12% of the total employment of the Union (EU, 2014). According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, this trend already accounts for 25% of the income of the tourism sector worldwide (Confidencialessemana, 2018). In the United States, of the 46.5 billion dollars that sport managed in 2005, it almost doubled in 2017, reaching 90.9 billion dollars (Witmann, 2018). In Spain, in 2016, 10.1 million foreign tourists traveled to this country for sport reasons, spending an average of 1,194 euros, 22.5% more than ten years ago (Egatur, 2017).

The spectacle, participation and nostalgia sport events-subsequent visits-generate flows of all kinds of consumer goods-sports equipment, tickets, fees, travel, accommodation and stay, visits to the city, and various services, among which there are to quote those relating to the organization, clinics, high performance centers, sports betting, and sponsorships, advertising and TV rights (Pedrosa, 2003). Additional mention of the public role that, in exchange for receiving the taxes generated from the whole activity, contributes resources to the financing for the construction and maintenance of the stadiums, and for the organization thereof (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Flows generated by sports activities

Source own, from Pedrosa, Salvador, 2003

Source own, from Pedrosa, Salvador, 2003


The methodological proposal is that, given the strong growth in demand for sport tourism in Europe, Madeira is able to offer its space to a much larger segment of athletes. To do this, we must identify the aspirations of the sports public that can be met; the type of events, the organization model and the required infrastructures. This set should provide economic, social and environmental benefits. And effectively contribute to the improvement of the brand image of the destination or country (Figure 2)

Figure 2: Sport Tourism at the service of a destination

Source Own

2.1 Clients

Between 2014 and 2017, the number of Europeans who say they never practice sports has gone from 42 to 46%, a negative trend similar to that which has occurred since 2009 (Eurobarometer, 2018). However, in the last Eurobarometer on the subject some minor changes to worse, which reduce the usual sports practice in Spain (+ 2%), Estonia (+ 12%), Austria (13%), although it improves that of Cyprus (8%), Bulgaria (-10%) and Malta (-19%) It remains stable in Portugal, Great Britain, France, while the propensity to practice sports in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Germany (Eurobarometer, 2018) remains highly sustained, being the countries that export tourists. In short, the number of those who do not practice increases, but the practitioners dedicate more time and resources. In addition, spectacular results are expected in the medium and long term favorable to sports practice as a result of the transnational initiatives that are being carried out under community impulse (European Commission, 2018)

As a benchmarking, it must be affirmed that the flow of tourists increases in search of places to practice sports. In the Spanish case, one of the tourism leaders of the world market, in 2017 the arrival of 1.3 million tourists was recorded for exclusively sporting reasons, which means 1.8% of the total tourist flow to Spain. In addition, 10.6 million foreign tourists arrived in that country practiced some sport during their stay in Spain, generating an expense of 114 euros a day. That means 1,207 euros spent per person during your total stay, 69 euros less than the average located at 1,138 euros (Egatur, 2018). The preferred activities were hiking, mountaineering, water sports, golf and popular marathons.

We distinguish six segments of sports tourism customers (Newland, Aicher, 2018):

1. Attendees to live shows and in person to any type of sporting event, from the world soccer championships or any other specialty of any category, to the most minor tournament

2. Those who follow the celebration of events through television - at home, in the club or in any establishment ad hoc-, radio broadcasting, written media, streaming

3. Videogame players, which in turn can be divided into:

a. Video game players at home where they participate in an amateur or professional way

b. Face-to-face videogame players where amateurs or professional championships are held

4. Athletes who perform at an event individually, professionally or amateurly

5. Athletes who participate in an event collectively as a club

6. Travelers who visit the places where an event was held in both the first and second groups

Sporting events can be large (Olympic Games, world championships, World Police and Firefighting Games, etc.,Formule-1, etc.) where thousands of people move, medium-sized, which mobilize hundreds of people, and small-sized ones, whose proportion It is quite minor. Among the individual and collective athletes, appear the neophytes, Intermediaries and the afficionados (Newland, Aicher, 2018), depending on the level of competition acquired.

Identifying the target, among European practitioners it is found that:

• The market remains constant, very similar to the last ten years, but the practice of sports increases. In addition, we expect spectacular results in the medium and long term favorable to it, thanks to the EU guidelines. The target countries are still the Scandinavians, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany and, despite the decline in activity, Spain, Austria

• The daily expenditure of sport tourism is higher than the average spending of holiday tourists in a percentage close to 6%

• The segments for Madeira are groups 4 and 5

• The dimension of events are preferentially medium and small

• And the professional level, the neophytes and the intermediate ones

2.2 Types of sporting events

The International Olympic Committee accepts a total of 66 sports activities, distributed among those of summer sports (28), winter sports (7) and other sports recognized by that body (31). There is a border between the sports accepted by the International Olympic Committee and tourism. These are activities related to walking, running, fitness, opening training, corporate wellness, spinning, and aerobics, associated with urban life, outdoors, adventure, and discovery, that fit perfectly with the main demands of sports activity of Europeans when they travel., as quiet sports activities. We would say that sports activity has become a sport on demand for each group or person, at any time of the day.

The European project COMPASS (Coordinated Monitoring of Participation) typifies sporting practices in seven categories: competitively and organized, intensively, regularly in a competitive and organized manner, regularly recreationally, irregularly, occasionally, and not practical (Heinemann, 1998). These sporting activities border between sport and tourism are the most benefited from the push, and the search for satisfaction in these activities is where sport tourism grows the most.

2.3  Organization

Although a very important part of medium and small sporting events has been done so far thanks to the voluntarism of a few, the management by clubs, associations and the various public administrations advances throughout Europe towards a complete stage professionalization Especially when the development of this activity involves attracting tourists in an increasingly competitive environment.

To develop an event and properly use the spaces an organizing team with the appropriate administrative services is required. Whether it is an event incardinated to the programming of a club or if it is unique, the organizing team requires:

• Economic resources. Three sources of financing appear: private brands, through advertising, sponsorship and contracts with media for retransmission; public administrations; and the exploitation of the activity itself and the different spaces, based on ticketing, memberships, concessions, exclusivities and rights over merchandising products. These three sources guarantee the profitability of the event. Each one of the financiers looks for the profitability adapted to their interests: economic, social and environmental

• Adequate spaces for the celebration of events whether private or public. Both the enclosures and the outdoor spaces are immersed in a profound process of urban reorganization

• Methodologies and tools in the management processes, in customer loyalty, in marketing information systems, SIM, in the management of brands

• Contacts with athletes, with federations, with referees, with brands and sponsors, with local assistants, visitors and tourists

• Offline and online media interested in generating consumable content by broad audiences, which generate audiences and economic flows that provide sufficient resources to adequately remunerate the entire circuit

• Public-private management, which is usually the most competitive, since it balances the search for economic, social and environmental benefits

• Sports management, which is one of the specialties on the rise in academic education. Manage this series of elements to obtain the key factors of success of the events. Fortunately, this course the University of Madeira has started a degree in Hotel Management that facilitates the training of students in tourism, which will allow in the medium term to have talent prepared to expand to this field of tourism

The availability of numerous natural spaces valued in Madeira, such as those of the Levadas and mountains, and of sports facilities makes Madeira an ideal place to encourage this type of market, sport tourism

2.4 Necessary infrastructure

Sports events require sports opportunities, equipment, services and complementary products (Heinemann, 1988). Regarding opportunities, we must mention the sports facilities; the means of transport and roads; parking, facilities for supplies and evacuation; sports environments, such as home-club and social premises; the points of sale of sports clothing and accessories. In terms of equipment, sportswear, accessories, food, medical and rehabilitation services, repair, computer equipment and other auxiliary means.

Regarding the provision of services, learning of the sports discipline; training; advice on programs; sports events

As for complementary products, shows and sporting events, sports, travel, insurance, betting, video games.

In this sense, the tourist offer of Madeira is sufficiently complete to undertake this new market, although it will have to adjust the lodging, the restoration, the intermediation, the transport, the tourist activities, the shopping to the growth of the future demand of sport tourism. Additionally, expand are services around the levadas and the mountain to complete a product with high added value

   2.5 Economic, social and environmental benefits

The positive impact of the sporting events are the income, the improvement of the infrastructures and their maintenance, the transport service created, the pride and sense of belonging, the volunteer and the active participation of the community, and the image that is generated in the off and online media. The negative impacts are the overcrowding, the increase of robberies and criminality, traffic congestion and displacements, the increase of garbage (Barker, Page, Meyer, 2002) and the medical and safety problems that are generated.

Apart from seeking the balance of the economic results of the accounts of each event, the sports policy should tend to improve the social aspects - that is, improvement of the salaries of the people, creation of new jobs, of the green spaces at the service of the population, of the community sport practice, of the general level of life, of innovation- and environmental of the destination. In this way, green events are encouraged to encourage attendees and participants to adopt pro-environmental behaviors (Hyoung, Nelson, Kim, 2015)

To measure the profitability of a sporting event it is necessary to compare the global value of the goods and services produced -PIB-, the expense -GIB-, and the income, RN (Heinemann, 1998), through any of the analysis systems input-output, satellite, sectoral or regional account. Well, it is difficult to establish the measurement to know the real impact of a sporting event. Most tangible aspects are auditable, but intangibles are much more complicated. The measurement problems that are presented are of a conceptual nature - depending on the understanding of sports spending in relation to entertainment, recreation, tourism-; statistical - low level of practice data, clothing and exclusive materials, sports spending, the breakdown within national statistical services between entertainment, leisure and culture-; and methodologies - incidence of sport in industry and distribution in national accounting- (Pedrosa, Salvador, 2003) In the face of megalomania in the construction of spaces for sport, rationality is imposed, enabling those infrastructures and ad hoc services for each project. Sport tourism cooperates to the sustainability of the territory and heritage and cooperates with slow tourism, a new way of traveling more relaxed and with a much smaller ecological footprint.

   2.6 Brand image of countries

The brand image of a country or a tourist destination is an umbrella that protects all those elements that constitute it. sport tourism is one of the ones that can bring more value and infuse a special mark. In this way, the vision of Madeira offering itself as slow tourism can generate an attraction of tourists interested in a different way of traveling differentiated from the massive sun and beach tourism, which marries the contemporary play mentality and has a higher disposition to pay more.

The idea is to develop a public-private management of spaces where not only the social conditions of the population are improved, but the environmental wealth of the island is preserved.

It is necessary to associate the perceived value of quality, of emotional response, of price, of experience to the reputation of destiny and this will produce fidelity (Zeithhaml, 1988).

The brand image of Madeira would increase its value if this input relative to sports tourism is added (Figure 3). In search of the clear differentiation regarding the sun and beach offer of most European islands, sport tourism is associated with the concepts of sustainability and slow tourism, within the most advanced trends of the new way of traveling.

Figure 3. Sport tourism attribute incorporated to the Madeira brand

Source Own


From the explanations of this paper the following conclusions can be drawn:

a) Sport has become a determining factor in the offer of tourist destinations. Thanks to this, they move towards differentiation and toward greater international competitiveness

b) The data provided in this paper indicate that there is an important sport tourism market in Europe, mainly in Scandinavia and in the traditional emitting countries of tourists to Madeira

c) This is an target that is willing to perform quiet sports activities such as walking, running, fitness, outdoors, opening training, adventure or discovery

d) This target spends 6% more than when traveling for other tourist activities

e) Madeira is able to grow in the sport segment of medium and small events both in individual activities and clubs, and both among neophytes and intermediaries. The fundamental reasons are the available natural spaces, such as the levadas, the mountain. And above all the association of the tourist image to sustainability and slow tourism

f) It requires adjusting the offer of tourist and para-tourist services and infrastructure to the evolution of the new demand

g) In the digitization phase of the sector in which the world tourism market lives, Madeira can take advantage of the opportunity to promote digital transformation in the field of sport tourism.


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