THE Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 on Wednesday, March 27, led the creation of the region’s first sports tourism council that will help Central Visayas take off as the country’s sports tourism capital.
Mirella Gallego of Gallego Architects/ Philippine Hobie Challenge, Astrid Mae Erasga of Dynamic Herb Sports Inc., Christopher Darza of Paragliding Oslob, Buzzy Budlong of Island Buzz Philippines, JP Maunes of Philippine Accessible Disability Services Inc. and Bang Gumalo of Sawum Freedive were elected as officers of the council.
With the creation of the council, DOT 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano said sports tourism will now be represented as part of the region’s tourism undertakings.
“We are now putting the sports tourism sector part of the tourism industry officially,” he said, adding that it is a partnership with the different stakeholders that the sector needs to sustain the sports activities they hold annually.
Tamano said he isn’t worried that the region doesn’t have big coliseums to house huge sporting events because it has the beaches as its stage.
“We have more infrastructure here than Clark. Ours is natural which cannot be replicated,” said Tamano, noting that the region which is surrounded by water makes it an ideal hub for watersports activities.
2019 SEA Games
The New Clark City Sports Complex is expected to be completed in time for the November 2019 Southeast Asian Games. The athletics stadium will have a seating capacity of 20,000 while the aquatics center is capable of hosting 2,000 spectators.
“I have seen how sports tourism has helped Siargao Island. It doesn’t have too many facilities yet the people continue to go there. Cebu is pretty much the same because our beaches are our amphitheaters,” said Tamano.
Sporting events, according to Tamano, can also help improve the image of Central Visayas known as a destination. He said the industry wants the region to be known more than just a destination for business and leisure. He said amplifying sports tourism could strengthen the region’s branding.
Tamano said they eye to attract potential competitors from Asean as well as China, Japan and South Korea in the games the industry will stage.
“Right now the competitors we attract are from the traditional markets or the same pool from five years ago,” he said.
Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists Inc. (Catos) president Alice Queblatin lauded the initiative, saying that organizing the sports enthusiasts and players in the region could help improve the region’s tourism offering to foreign guests.
Queblatin admitted that they have been offering the same packages to guests and that it is about time for the region, specifically Cebu, to offer a new one.
“We are looking for products to sell and sports tourism is something that we are ready for. In fact, we have been selling sports packages informally,” she said.
Cebu has played host to big-ticket sports events like Ironman, Spartan race, free diving, dragon boat race and marathons, among others.
“Sports tourism will now be our answer to the feedback of Routes Asia 2019 that Cebu has nothing new to offer,” she added. “With this organized council we can do more for Cebu now.”
Queblatin said Catos members, for instance, are just waiting to be linked to the group so it could help promote the calendar of sports activities lined up in the region.
“We are open to collaborate and give tourism in Cebu a good push,” she said.
“We will help the group promote these events,” added Tamano.
Sports tourism market
Moreover, Queblatin said Catos is also willing to help the group come up with specific regulations as safety of guests is also of prime importance.
With the creation of the sports council, the group will now also be linked to hotels and transport groups as well as to the airlines and other tourism-related organizations.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization said sports tourism is a $600-billion market expanding by an average of 5.3 percent annually. It is projected to grow 6.1 percent from 2013 to 2020 and by 4.7 percent from 2020 to 2030.