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16 Nov, 2009

S. Africa Hosts Summit To Strengthen Sports<>Tourism Links

LONDON — The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the South African Government are to jointly organise what is claimed to be the world’s first international Tourism, Sport and Mega-events Summit in Sandton, South Africa during February 24 – 26, 2010.  The summit reflects the importance of major sporting, business and cultural events as a motivating factor for travel.

According to a statement by the organisers, the summit will provide a forum for active discussion, debate and direction around the leverage of mega-events as a vital force for sector growth and advancement in national development strategies.

Estimated to be worth $600 billion a year to travel and tourism worldwide, sports tourism was highlighted at a keynote event at the World Travel Market in London last week.

The event “Sports Tourism in Pole Position” brought together representatives from three of the world’s important sporting events — FIFA World Cup (South Africa, 2010); Winter Olympics (Canada, 2010) and the Olympics (London 2012).

The big-daddy event is set to be the World Cup from 11 June 2010 to 11 July 2010, the first time that the tournament is hosted by an African nation. Other sporting events in 2010 include the Commonwealth Games in India and the World Exhibition in Shanghai.

In organising the sport and tourism summit, the UNWTO said it is seeking “to align the global T&T sector’s leadership to create a framework for leveraging sport and other mega-events (including cultural and entertainment events, exhibitions and business conventions) for economic growth.”

Said Dr Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, “This important meeting reflects the increasing economic and social impacts of sport, mega-events and tourism. It will establish new lines of thinking on operations, economics and sustainability.”

“This process must take into account the economic, social and environmental consequences for host nations, and the massive multimedia opportunities for nation branding and export promotion.

Sports events packagers are already launching their World Cup 2010 packages, covering hotels in each of the host cities, Category 1 match tickets, multilingual concierge services, transportation, as well as a host of other services. There is expected to be a major shortage of hotel rooms, and some events packagers are already making bookings on cruise liners.

Said South African Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, “We know that we, as a developing country, cannot afford to have underutilised infrastructure after the World Cup, and we understand that we must plan ahead to make sure our infrastructure and skills investments do not go to waste.”

The summit will be held parallel to the annual Meetings Africa, Africa’s top business tourism exhibition hosted annually by South African Tourism.

The UNWTO and the Ministry of Tourism are calling for papers on mega-event sustainability, to be presented at a colloquium co-hosted by the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Christel DeHaan Tourism and Travel Research Institute, Nottingham University, UK. The colloquium is scheduled for 24 February 2010 and the closing date for the submission of abstracts is 4 December 2009.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who opened World Travel Market, used the platform to pitch the 2012 Olympic Games. “We want to use the £9.3 billion investment to boost bits of London that have been neglected for ages.”

He said that the influx of tourists that the Games will bring represents an opportunity for the capital, saying it offers a chance “to improve the look and feel of London and help to look after the interests of our poorest citizens during the economic downturn.”

“We want East London to lose its status as second-best,” he said. “We want to make it a place where people want to go rather than a place people want to leave.”

He said the benefits of tourism will not just be short term but will benefit the city for years to come. “This is an enormous infrastructure project,” he said. “It’s a new Victorian age, the biggest change to London’s infrastructure in more than 70 years.”

Transport, in particular, will receive a boost. “By the end of my term of office as mayor,” said Johnson, “40% of the Tube will be air-conditioned, the capacity of the Docklands Light Railway will have been increased by 50% and the Oyster card will be valid on London’s overground rail network and on its riverboat service.”

Johnson also stressed the international nature of the capital. “In 2012, there will be visitors from 50 nations who will find a home crowd of more than 50,000 people of their own nationality living in this country,” he said.

Several other countries and territories also used the WTM to make a number of announcements strengthening the sports-and-tourism nexus.

The Caribbean countries announced the opening of a West Indies Cricket Heritage Centre at Grenada’s National Stadium, showcasing many of the great West Indian players who have contributed to the lasting legacy of cricket and events which were responsible for the region’s dominance of the game between 1964 and 1968 and 1980 to 1995. The Caribbean hosted the Cricket World Cup matches in 2007.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) said it has signed a 12-month agreement with star footballer Dwight Yorke to be the tourism ambassador for Tobago for 2010. His contract requires him to visit schools across the UK as part of the Caribbean island’s Sounds Like Tobago initiative, which brings the flavour of Tobago to children through programme of learning and fun.

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