Looking Back on the UNWTO World Sports Tourism Congress 2021

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It seems we were pretty lucky.

Now with Omicron in full-force around the globe, me and my family were able to travel to Europe for a 2-week adventure of a lifetime, and return safely home, before the onset of this next variant.

Here at the start of a new year, it has me asking myself, “Did we really just do that?!”

More than the pictures on my phone, the amazing memories etched in my mind confirm that, yes, we sure did! To top it off, my kids’ curriculum this year is Cultures of the World, so we couldn’t think of a better way for them to learn than to experience.

But it wasn’t just fun and adventure (though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the bulk of it). The reason we got that opportunity was because I spoke at the first-ever UN World Tourism organization (UTWTO) World Sports Tourism Congress in a little town named Lloret de Mar, Spain on the Costa Brava.

Not only did I get the chance to represent Sports ETA and our industry as a whole for the U.S., I also got to meet new colleagues from around the world and learn from them. Today I’ll share my Top 5 take aways from my sports tourism around the globe.

5. Sustainable tourism is making way for regenerative tourism, and Europe is way ahead of the US in this regard. Not only are organizers and destinations trying to create sports tourism that takes preservation of scarce resources into consideration, but they are also striving to implement strategies that actually results in a destination and its people better-off than before the event. As my momma always said, “Leave it better than you found it.”

4. The European sports events and tourism industry from country-to-country parallels our state-to-state structure. You could think of each European country as a State in the US. In essence, much of what European countries are doing regarding national-level initiatives is quite similar to efforts of our 26+ state associations in the US. It truly is fascinating!

3. They are also striving to better measure and communicate impacts of sporting events…with one main difference: sport initiatives are predominantly nationally funded there. Therefore, destinations are living and dying by lodging tax revenues. Which, in turn, makes it much more palatable for them to find motivation to explore an expanded definition of success of their events (see #5 above).

2. Because of their governmental funding mechanisms supporting sports development, they do not have the same massive youth/amateur sport ecosystem – and their accompanying facility development explosion – we are seeing here in the US.

1. No matter the country, the sport, the destination, or the level of competition, one was clear: There are dedicated, passionate sports tourism academicians and practitioners around the world that see the value of sport on individual and community well-being and are working tireless to advance that cause. That likely includes you, the reader of this blog.

Until next time to my new international colleagues and friends. Happy New Year and I look forward to laughter and learning together again.

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