10 Sports Tourism Trends to Watch in 2018

10 Sports Tourism Trends to Watch in 2018

By Dawn Reiss, January 18, 2018

Most trends for sporting events in 2018 like geofencing and the prevalence of emerging sports will carry over from previous years.

Unless you’re a “stay to play,” it will continue to be difficult to track hotel capacities says Theresa Belpulsi, vice president, tourism and visitor services for Destination DC.

As companies like Airbnb become more trusted by the attendees, events will continue to be about the overall experience and not just the competition facility, Belpulsi predicts. That means local attractions will become more important to marry with an event. “People want the biggest bang for their buck,” she says.

As hotel rates increase, organizers will continue to search for more affordable options, which could positively affect second- and third tier-destinations, says Clay Partain, director of sports market sales for Visit Salt Lake.

At the same time, security concerns are increasing. “People want to feel safe, and there is more awareness than ever on this issue,” Partain says.  As venues and organizers work hard to quickly implement more rigorous safety standards and security measurements, safer cities will benefit.

No matter how technology plays a more profound role, it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s still the human connection to each other, not machinery, that helps bind deals together and make event operators coming back year after year.

“People make deals with people, not apps or some new technology. People make or break events,” says Jon Schmieder, founder and CEO Huddle Up Group. “We need to keep this in mind no matter what role we play in this awesome industry.”

Here are 10 trends you should consider in the coming months.

1. Bigger Is Better 

Huge one-time events are becoming more important than smaller competitions held regularly, Belpulsi says For example, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission’s 2018 calendar includes 10 major sporting events that are projected to produce a combined economic impact of more than $30 million, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business. The biggest of the group is NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, March 15-17 at Quicken Loans Arena. It will have an estimated economic impact of $15 million.

2. Quirky Collaborations

Special events like chicken or music festivals are being added to sports event planners repertoire, Schmieder says. “If it uses the same event production skills, and drives overnight stays, why not expand from just sports to sports and events?” he asks rhetorically.

That philosophy spills over to non-traditional partnerships like the 2017 deal in which Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties—related to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s ownership group—took over marketing rights for University of South Florida. Similarly, the Sacramento Kings hold U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s multimedia marketing rights.

Schmieder says another example of strange bedfellows is universities housing sports commissions instead of a CVB or chamber of commerce. “In today’s entrepreneurial marketplace, there are more opportunities to collaborate outside the box’ than in the past,” he says.

3. Self-Made Events

Need an event? Then create one. They are becoming more common each year. These events range from esports competitions like the XPO game festival in like Tulsa to “border war” high school showdowns to college football games at NASCAR tracks.

Schmieder says creating “owned” properties is something CVBs and sports commissions rarely tried in years past but are warming to. “The long-term benefit to the host community is a great deal of control over the event’s outcome,” he says.

4. The Continued Emergence of Emerging Sports

The number of activities that have become sports range from Ultimate, roller derby, squash, geo caching to bouldering, quidditch and pickleball. For example, Salt Lake will host the 2018 Bouldering Indoor National Championships and the USA Climbing American Open this month.

5. The Role of Volunteers Will Evolve

The law suit, Liebesman v. Competitor Group, Inc., which owns the nationwide Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon series, is making its way through the courts and will potentially affect the use of volunteers.

Here’s the backstory: Yvette Joy Liebesman, a cyclist and associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law sued after she rode her bike St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon as an official escort for the lead runners. In the suit, she alleges the for-profit CGI obscured its status by selling “Official Charity” sponsorships in the form of paying for at least 10 runners at $165 each.

The outcome of this case could decide the requirements on how event owners classify volunteers versus an employee, Schmieder says. That definition can drastically change the way events are run in the United States.

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