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What Is Sports Tourism?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 23, 2024
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Sports tourism involves traveling to specific locations to watch sporting events or to participate in sports. Many travel firms market all inclusive travel deals which include tickets to sporting events, accommodation and meals for sports fans. Some people prefer to make their own travel arrangements and buy transportation and event tickets without the assistance of travel agents.

Fans of major sports can buy travel packages to major events such as the Olympics or the soccer world cup. These often last for weeks or months; sports tourism packages usually include tickets to several different games or matches that occur during the course of the tournament. During lengthy trips, some fans have the option of adding excursions into the travel package so that they can visit local tourist sites between sporting events. Travel firms often sell various types of packages; some are aimed at budget conscious travelers, while other deals are designed to suit the needs of business executives. Other clients may want to stay in luxury accommodations during the trip.

Many sporting events last for no more than a few hours and informal sports tourism involves individuals traveling long distances to watch a single matchup before returning home. Some of these independent travelers do not visit tourist sites or explore the area. In some instances, groups of sports fans charter coaches or buses so that they can discuss the sport on the way to the event and talk about the outcome on the way home. Fans of some sports have been known to riot after sporting events and police in such cities often escort people on sports tourism trips into and out of the sports arena.

Aside from watching sports events, many tourists participate in sports such as snorkeling, rock climbing and other types of outdoor pursuits. In some instances, these individuals have to undergo some training before they can participate in certain activities such as climbing steep mountainsides of diving at certain depths. Some travel operators cater to both serious sports participants and recreational travelers who want to experience outdoor pursuits but who also want to tour historic sites and participate in non-sports related activities.

Sports tourism can involve travel to sporting locations even when no events are scheduled to take place. Many sports stadiums have museums and schedule tours that enable sports fans to get a behind the scenes view of their favorite sports teams. Some tennis and golf clubs allow visitors to use the same facilities that are normally used by professionals partaking in major events.

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Discussion Comments

By Mykol — On Jan 21, 2012

I am reminded of how much money sports tourism brings in anytime I pay to learn a new sport or engage in a sport when I am on vacation.

It seems like if you travel to any tropical place the price you have to pay to snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, or even rent a bike can be steep.

Since you are away from home, your options are limited and if you want to participate in the sport, you have to be willing to pay the price.

You are usually left with a great memory, so it's not so bad, but it can still be hard to pay that much money when you know you have a bike at home sitting in your garage.

By golf07 — On Jan 20, 2012

@honeybees - The high hotel rates being charged is something that happened to my dad one year. My sister was in the hospital in Phoenix, and my dad was there during the week a bowl game was going to be played.

Trying to rent a hotel room and a rental car was almost impossible. Then the rate that he had to pay was way more than what he would have paid if there had not been a big sporting event in town.

There were people there from all over the country who had come to cheer on their teams. Some of them flew in, but a lot of them chartered buses or took road trips to get there in time to see the big game.

In a situation like that, you want to make sure and get your ticket before you go. Your chances of getting one when you get there might be slim to none.

By honeybees — On Jan 19, 2012

I live in a state where most years at least one of our college teams is involved in a bowl game. I am not that big of a sports fan, so don't follow either of these teams that closely.

My son, on the other hand, is a big fan, and always like to take a trip wherever a bowl game might be. Since these are played during the winter months, you never know where they are going to be.

This year he was hoping they would play in a warm climate, but his team ended up going to New York. Since we live in a state with pretty cold winters, he decided he didn't want to spend all the money to go to New York, but would watch the game with friends at home.

Sometimes I am amazed at the amount of money sports fans will spend to attend games like this. The hotel rooms are always priced high because they are going for a premium rate. Even the price of tickets can be quite high.

All I know is that there is a lot of money spent on sports tourism. There are a lot of sporting events and even more devoted fans, so this means sports tourism is a big business.

By kentuckycat — On Jan 19, 2012

@matthewc23 - You are absolutely right. There are many different ways people can engage in sports tourism on their own and it does not even need to involve following their favorite team.

I have heard of many instances in which people have traveled across the country going to every baseball stadium in order to say they simply went to every single baseball stadium in the country.

I have also heard instances in which people simply travel to big football games or events just to take in the travel aspect and be part of a big event.

When someone decides to travel this way they can stop at various historical sports places such as a hall of fame or a place where a famous sports figure lived. It is definitely something for someone to engage in and absolutely something that does not really need a set plan, just an outline and they can enjoy all the neat stuff along the way.

By matthewc23 — On Jan 18, 2012

@titans62 - You are absolutely correct and I like to think of traveling with a sports basis is something that needs to be a bit of a spur of the moment type of thing that can allow someone to travel wherever they wish and whenever they wish.

I know that international competitions, like the Olympics or World Cup, are something that have a center revolving around what someone is going to do and that is all they are going to do. However, there are other ways to engage in sports tourism, which involve the person doing everything on their own in a simple fashion without any need for a sports tourism agency.

I notice people follow their favorite college football teams around the country in regards to their schedule as well as NASCAR fans following every race throughout the season. These types of things are simply hobbies of the person and have a set schedule in place for big events and allow the person to be free to do what they want without the need of a tourism agency.

By titans62 — On Jan 17, 2012

@TreeMan - You are absolutely correct and this does not just apply to the Olympics it can apply to a large spectrum of various sports.

Like the Olympics the World Cup is a very heavily attended and sought after event that can be hard for people to get to and that is why people go through travel agencies in order to ensure that they get to the games on time and safely without having to go through any red tape that might occur with international travel.

Most people do not go through these types of channels in order to get to the games because most people cannot afford the extra money or simply choose not to utilize them. They are taking a risk by doing this, but they are also saving money in the process and giving themselves the freedom to travel as they will.

By TreeMan — On Jan 17, 2012

I have heard of various agencies which promote sports tourism and for the most part they revolve around international competition, like the Olympics, and try to simply get people to some prestigious sporting event which is very sought after and hard to get to.

I have heard that it is very difficult to travel to the Olympics and that it is necessary for someone to go through a travel agency in order to be sure that they can get to the games safely as well as be immersed in the culture of the games and see other sights along the way.

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