Sports tourism gets hard look


ANTIGONISH — It was a rare chance last week for about 30 delegates to take part in a sports tourism conference.

Craig Murray, who grew up in Trenton and is in his graduating year at Dalhousie University, organized the conference. It was a project required as part of his recreation and management studies.

“The purpose of the event was to bring people together — that was the ultimate goal,” he said. “I hope people took value from it.”

The event occupied one of the conference rooms at the Charles V. Keating Centre at St. Francis Xavier University. It was in Antigonish due to its central location for those attending from Antigonish, Pictou and Guysborough counties that comprise Recreation Nova Scotia’s Highland Region. The regional office is located there.

People representing a variety of groups attended the conference. Among the 10 people from Pictou County was Cindy MacKinnon, who manages Destination Eastern and Northumberland Shores (DEANS), and as an athlete and organizer of sport events can view the subject from both perspectives.

“If we think we know (about sports tourism and its potential), we’re not asking the right questions,” she said. “This was a great opportunity for people to go back and work on this.”

Delegates from Pictou County also included Geralyn MacDonald and Janice Linthorne from the Town of New Glasgow, Michelle Young from Pictou Parks and Recreation, Jim Nix and Donalda Buckingham from the Bluenose Curling Club, as well as Chad McDavid and Jennie Greencorn from the Pictou County Wellness Centre.

“The sport tourism conference was a valuable opportunity for gaining insightful information on hosting sporting events which we can bring back to our communities and can be applied to any scale of event hosting,” Young said.

Presenters included Chris Larsen from Sport and Entertainment and Atlantic, events manager Neal Alderson from Communities, Culture and Heritage and Marc Champoux on behalf of the organizing committee for the 2018 Canadian Special Olympics Summer Games hosted by Antigonish.

Antigonish is also hosting the Nova Scotia 55-Plus Games next year and received some tips on how to prepare. Larsen stressed that bidding to host an event and organizing it are two different tasks. He cited as an example the opportunities for outlying communities to host pre-tournament training or competitions prior to the actual dates for the 2020 World Women’s Hockey Championship being played in Halifax.

“It’s a great opportunity for them,” he said.

Statistics show that sports tourism is a $600 billion industry worldwide, a $6.8-billion industry in Canada and a $450-million industry in Atlantic Canada.

Sponsorship is a $60.1-billion industry worldwide and a $2-billion industry in Canada. The proportion of sponsorship is generally 75 per cent in cash and 25 per cent in-kind.

Larsen described the sponsorship value wheel that includes engaging customers, fans and corporate employees, sponsorship rights, event signage and digital marketing awareness and event entitlements.

“If you have a strong business case for six of these, you have a good case,” he said.

It was described as STEAMS that stands for a sports tourism economic assessment model.

Champoux shared how St. FX immediately saw the opportunity to host the Special Olympics to show the university and surrounding community can host high-profile events.

Hotels were booked for the Games from Truro to the Strait, he said.

“We had an economic impact of $5 million,” he said. The level of commitment of sponsorship was way beyond the cheque.”

From left: Craig Murray chats with Michelle Young from Pictou Parks and Recreation at the sports tourism conference he organized last week in Antigonish. (Goodwin photo)