Sport tourism has become the most relevant segment in the tourism industry in the US, Australia, large parts of Europe, the UAE, Qatar, Japan, China and South Korea.
The US recorded a US$103.3 billion business chunk in sports tourism events in 2019 with event organizers, sports bodies and venues spending $45.1 billion to host events. A staggering 180 million visitors crisscrossed the country to participate, officiate or witness various sports that year before the Covid-19 pandemic devastated its growth in 2020. No, my dear, turning election results or scaling the newly built Mexican wall cannot be considered a sports event.
2019 was also a super bumper year for Philippine sports and tourism. We registered a record- breaking 8.2 million visitors, and our athletes did us proud by being crowned the Southeast Asian Games (SEA) overall champions. Nearly 11,000 athletes and officials participated in the two-week Association of Southeast Asian Nations event held in Manila, Clark, Subic, New Clark City and other southern Luzon clusters.
Assuming each participant conservatively spent P4,000 a day for accommodation and meals for 14 days, a staggering P616 million would have flowed into the local economy not taking into account transportation costs, souvenir buying and sightseeing. The social and cultural impact can only be proven to be on a positive note. Pardon the pun as social distancing and cultural activities were never discouraged then. Takes a lot of guts to say “stay positive” nowadays.
Amid all this, the vision of a Clark Sports Hub was hatched during the 4th Philippine Sports Tourism Awards in Clark in December 2020. The complimentary streak should work as Subic is ideal for watersports; Clark for all the proven SEA Games sports they hosted and New Clark City for track and field and swimming events including water polo and underwater hockey.
For a country of our size, the Philippines should have more than one sports hub. A Greater Cebu sports hub should be a highly prioritized agenda for the province and the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu and even Talisay.
We should not be content with just hosting a couple of international triathlons and some elite basketball games in a year. The wretched fact that Cebu lacks top- class sporting facilities is only too sad and glaring. How and when do we seriously bid for more international tournaments?
It will be foolhardy too to construct iconic indoor stadiums in each city to cater to just popular basketball and volleyball. Only one will suffice for the entire metropolis, with existing venues making every effort to upgrade and stay ahead.
The socio-cultural and economic benefits of sports tourism events must be felt in the streets. There should be a body drawing up a masterplan determining which city prioritizes on a particular sport venue. Sports, unfortunately, is not a priority for most local governments. Calling: SM, Smart/PLDT, Megaworld, Aboitiz, Allianz, Gokongwei, Ayala and Gaisano, IPI etc. We need you.