Galway can grab greater slice of €450bn sport tourism product

Keith Wood, Ireland and Munster Rugby legend, and Rose Hynes, chair, Shannon Airport Authority. 
Picture: Alan Place

Keith Wood, Ireland and Munster Rugby legend, and Rose Hynes, chair, Shannon Airport Authority. Picture: Alan Place

Galway can advance its already strong sport tourism product and grab a greater slice of the €450bn global industry in the sector, the organisers of a major think-tank of international experts in the field in May have stated.

The inaugural European Sport Tourism Summit, which will take place at Thomond Park Stadium, Limerick on Thursday May 15th, will hear from global experts how Ireland can attract major international tournaments, such as the rugby world cup, but also how regions and counties like Galway can develop their own niche product, working off the excellent natural infrastructure that the country provides.

Organised by W2 Consulting, the Shannon Airport sponsored event, will be attended by over 300 delegates drawn from local authorities, sports bodies, federations, clubs, charity organisations and communities here and abroad eager to attract global sports events and tournaments or develop their own major sports tourism product around mass participation events.

Announcing the Summit, W2 Consulting director Mark O’Connell said that the Sport Tourism industry is on a steep upward curve globally and represents a huge opportunity for every county, including Galway. “Sports Tourism is huge business and it’s getting bigger and bigger. Research has shown that sports tourist spend double the amount that traditional tourists do and this is a huge opportunity for Government at national and local level, as well as sports organisations, to capitalize on.

“Galway has already shown with the Volvo Ocean Race it’s capacity to host major international events. It also has well established events like events like the Connemarathon, Tour de Connemara and Gaelforce. Sports Tourism, as Galway is showing, is not just about hosting major global events, as these don’t come around as often as we would wish. There’s huge potential from events grown organically and locally but ones that still bring in big numbers and investment to a city or town. Galway does this very well and has significant potential to achieve more.

“The county as the ideal asset base. It has outstanding golf-courses, excellent coastal and inland waterways sports tourism opportunities, from wind-surfing to angling, which it has world renown for. There’s hardly a county in Ireland with better hill walking routes and it has huge opportunity from the likes of mass participation cycling, road-racing and triathlon events.

“It also has amongst the best stock of quality hotels of any county in Ireland and, therefore, can cater for big numbers. Altogether, this is a fantastic mix and the European Sport Tourism Summit will be looking at exactly how these type of opportunities can be maximised,” he said.

Delegates will hear from leading global experts in the sector about how Ireland can attract major global sports events and how local organisations can develop their own successful sports tourism product capable of attracting millions in revenue to a region or local community.

The conference, which will be staged annually in Limerick, will be the biggest of its kind in Europe and already being dubbed the ‘Davos’ of the sports industry.

Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes, a former Munster and Connacht squash interprovincial player, said that developing a major Sport Tourism strategy must be a priority for Ireland going forward: “As an airport we see first-hand the value of sports tourism. Huge numbers of golfers, for instance, come through Shannon each year to play in courses across the country. Latest statistics show that 150,000 plus golfers come to Ireland each year, generating up to €200m for the economy.

“Golf is an obvious example but there are several other sports, such as mass participation cycling events, triathlons, hill-walking events and tournaments led by local sports organisations that can attract big numbers. Every region and county in the country, with the right know-how, is capable of hosting these type of events. What we need to do is develop a clear strategy for this and the European Sports Summit will set the ball rolling in that regard.”

Among the list of high profile international experts giving their insights at the event will be Martin Snedden, CEO of New Zealand 2011 Rugby World Cup; Neil Carney, Director of Venue Management, Baku European Games 2015; Julian Jenkins, Commercial Director of Cardiff City FC and Rick Traer, CEO, Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, one of the world’s most successful sports tourism organisation.

Delegates will also hear from Sarah Harvey, MD of Tough Mudder Europe, the largest Adventure race brand in the world and Patrick Torrent, who has been instrumental in developing Barcelona and the wider Catalonia region into one of the world’s leading Sport Tourism destinations. Former England and Lions star Lawrence Dallaligo, who has led some of the UK’s highest profile charity fundraisers, is also among the list of high-profile speakers.

Full details, including registration, can be had on www. sporttourismsummit.ie

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