Embrace, develop sports tourism post-Covid


President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off the 2021 WRC Safari Rally at KICC in Nairobi County. FILE PHOTO | PSCU

Sports events are becoming a major driver of economic development worldwide. We estimate that globally, the industry is worth around $620 billion (Sh62 trillion). That figure represents a significant portion of the $4.5 trillion (Sh450 trillion) estimated value of the tourism industry.

This was clearly demonstrated by last week’s WRC Safari Rally event in Naivasha which is estimated to have contributed Sh6 billion within three days.

In the global arena, the sports tourism market is seen to be a fast-growing sector of the travel industry estimated at Sh60.7 trillion a year. Closer home, the tourism, travel and hospitality sector directly inject close to Sh294.6 billion to the Kenyan economy every year, which is approximately 3.7 percent of the GDP, according to the Kenya Hospitality Report.

Sports tourism is a viable pathway for generating visitor spending and promoting a destination’s local attractions and outlying districts. Aside from the obvious and vast benefits of travel, sports tourism is great for the economy for the one reason that it generates economic impact through direct spending.

With the agreement of Kenya to hold WRC Safari Rally till 2026, sports tourism is set for a rapid growth. There are a handful of areas popular for sports tourism in Kenya and many more could be exploited.

It is worth developing and will significantly contribute to diversification of tourism products post-Covid-19. From nature-based tourism to increasing opportunities for local participation. From weekend races, to rock climbing or running a half marathon.

This kind of tourism brings in tens of thousands of spectators. And guess what? Those people eat, tour, stay and probably buy a good souvenir. That’s more money to hotels, restaurants, sports facilities, gift-shops, the community, and country.

Destinations have to develop products such as rock climbing, water sports as players consolidate the previous gains.