The Economic Benefits of Sport Tourism - Part 1

July 27, 2017
Source: Philip GEBU/
The Economic Benefits of Sport Tourism - Part 1

Sport tourism refers to the experience of travel to engage in or view sport-related activities. Two very important groups are involved in sports tourism; the athlete or sport men and women and the spectators which also include the media. Over the past 30 years researchers have defined ‘sports tourism’ in many different ways. A universally accepted starting point is that provided by Standeven and De Knop (1999) in their book ‘Sports Tourism’ “All forms of active and passive involvement in sporting activity, participated in casually or in an organised way for non-commercial or business/commercial reasons that necessitates travel away from home and work locality”. According to the National Tourism Laboratory and eCommerce of the University of Illinois it is generally recognized that there are three types of sport tourism: Sport Event Tourism, Active Sport Tourism, and Nostalgia Sport Tourism.

  1. Sport Event Tourism

Sports event tourism includes hallmark events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup football championships, the African Cup of Nation, the All African Games etc.

  1. Active sport tourism

Those individuals who travel to participate in sporting events comprise the active sport tourism category. These participatory events can take on a wide variety of forms in a wide variety of sports. Golf, kayaking, tennis, fishing, snow-mobiling and surfing are just a few examples of the sports that people travel to participate in. One researcher has gone one step further and subdivides this type of sport tourism into “Activity participants” and “Hobbyists”. Activity participants are those individuals who are amateur participants who travel to take part in competitions in their chosen sport, while Hobbyists are those individuals who engage in sport related travel as a form of leisure. Subdividing the sport participants in these various categories enables the gathering of the data and analyses being very effective.

  1. Nostalgia Sport Tourism?

Nostalgia sport tourism involves traveling to famous sport-related attractions.  Example visiting the Ohene Djan Sport Stadium, the Azumah Nelson Sport Complex, the Elwak sport stadium etc. A tour of the facilities and learning about the history and significance of such edifice is vital in promoting this kind of tourism in Ghana most especially among the youth. The regional inter-schools have been an avenue to unearth new talents. It must also be used as a means of promoting domestic tourism. Many students may not know how the name Elwak came about yet they find themselves there participating in the competition. In recent times, radio stations do organise sports events for the business community which are very well patronized. The Citi Business Olympics which is arguably the biggest gathering of corporate Ghana bring together over sixty companies from the banking, insurance, technology, pharmaceutical, real estate, automobile and Oil and Gas sectors. Churches also do organise fun games all geared towards improving the participation in sports by their members. The annual Sheikh Sharubutu Ramadan Cup is a football fiesta, which is named in honour of the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharubutu. It brings together various Zongo communities to compete in a one-day football gala as part of activities marking the end of Ramadan every year and to promote unity among the youth in the Zongo communities. If these sport events are organised regionally, coupled with some sightseeing tours, it will enable many Ghanaians visits other regions thereby contributing to the local economy of the host region. The Citi Business Olympic for 2017 could be organised in HO. Participants will be transported to the Volta Regional capital and provided a one night accommodation facility. Someone may raise the cost as a deterrent; however sponsors should be able to bear the additional cost if the events are well coordinated.

In Barcelona 2001 the (then) Secretary-General of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), together with the (then) President of the International Olympic Committee, were joint signatories to a communiqué recognising sports and tourism as “forces for mutual understanding” EUROSPORT (a multimedia eDiscovery broadcaster) has recently estimated that sports tourism is worth $US800bn constituting +10% of the international travel and tourism receipts. In some destinations, sports tourism accounts for 25% of all tourism receipts rising to as much as 55% in Australia and parts of New Zealand. According to the World Trade Organization, travel done exclusively for the purpose of attending or competing in an organized sporting event has been estimated as a multibillion industry in the world. The World Cup in 1994 and the Olympic games held in Atlanta in 1996 were actively promoted as a tourist attraction. During the buildup to World Cup 1994, it was estimated that the event would attract 50 million foreign visitors to the United States who would spend 100 billion (U.S.) dollars (Gibson, 1995). In stark contrast, at the 2010 world cup in South Africa, a study by the South African Tourism revealed that just over 300,000 tourists visited the country. This led to a radical change of mindset from tourists who visited the country during the tournament – most of whom were skeptical about the country before the World Cup because of what they had read in the media about the country before they arrived. Amongst other things, the tourism report noted that most people who visited the tip of the Southern African continent are keen to come back and explore the country further as tourists.


The growth of sports tourism over the past few years has led to the successful organization of many sports event across the globe. Following the success of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Spain has become one of the top four most visited destinations in the world. Over the years, researchers on sport tourists have focused on their economic impact upon a host community, although measuring spending patterns is a difficult proposition. Globally, the economic impact of tourism is one of the most researched but least understood areas of tourism. Ghana has not been an exception. Ghana hosted the 2008 African Cup of Nation.  A total of $157.2 million has so far been spent on the rehabilitation and construction of four stadia to host the 26th Africa Cup of Nations tournament (Ghana 2008) in the country. The amount exceeded the $152.1 million initially projected by $5.1 million. A former minister of Youth and Sports in the erstwhile NDC government Mahama Ayariga said, the country did not benefit enough from hosting the AFCON in 2008 despite investing massively in the tournament. “We invested so much in the stadia to host the tournament in 2008 and the stadia haven’t deteriorated significantly. The kind of investment that we made in 2008, we have not benefitted enough from it”. I tried researching into figures regarding the amount of money the country received from tourism during the period of the tournament. It’s gloomy to note that there are no figures available unlike South Africa who provided figures. Lack of statistical figures makes it very difficult to recognize the actual contribution tourism has on the national economy. The figures may be more than anticipated. I have attended many festivals across the country and never saw anyone collecting data from the vendors, exhibitors, hotels, night clubs, restaurants etc. If it is to the contrary, I will be glad to receive the figures for research purposes. However, the exact impact of sport tourism is difficult to quantify. In addition, the industry is so expansive that it has caused problems for practitioners and academicians in determining the exact composition. Some researchers suggest that event planners adopt a conservative estimate of the potential profit (economic impact) from the event, as the expense of organizing an event is frequently underestimated. Sport tourism must be considered a sector of some significance in the economy of Ghana. Every week, very few football loving fans travel across the country to watch their team play. Many others engage in other forms of domestic tourism. If today any researcher was to ask the Ghana Football Authority for data regarding the movement of supporters will they be able to provide them? If the same questions were put to the Ghana Tourism Authority, will they also have the data? Do football clubs in Ghana have a data-base of their supporters? Do they know the number of supporters that travel every week end to witness their games support their team? If the answers to these questions are a big NO, then we need to begin to see sport tourism as a very important component that drives the economy. It is very sad that many premier leagues clubs do not own websites or facebook pages. Building a well-managed facebook page will be a bid step in beginning gathering data about the supporters.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to / Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations