Tourists spending more on sport and culture

New research finds that tourists are spending more than ever on destinations with cultural and sporting attractions. CLARK KELLY reports
A very Beijing boat

AGENTS looking for higher billings and commissions would do well to start talking up the cultural angle of their products, according to new research.

Euromonitor International’s latest report, The World Market for Travel and Tourism, finds that cultural destinations are winning more and more of tourists’ hard earned cash as the global travel and tourism industry goes from strength to strength.
The report highlights that cultural destinations have witnessed an impressive increase in value sales of 51 per cent from 2000 to 2005, with tourists increasingly willing to spend their travel and leisure time on more educational visits.
Caroline Bremner, global travel and tourism manager at Euromonitor International, explains, “Tourism has become one of the world’s biggest and fastest growing industries, with global visitor numbers growing by 16 per cent over 2004 and 2005 to reach 118.6 million. As a result, towns, cities and regions have started to aggressively market their natural and historical attributes in order to encourage visitors. In particular the baby-boomer generation is helping to give rise to the trend towards more cultural types of attractions”.
The importance of the culture trend can be seen by the way destinations which lack a particular cultural attraction, have started to create events that will appeal to culture lovers, such as festivals of opera, art, cinema and literature. Music festivals, for example, are very popular in Spain, with events such as Benaccassim attracting large numbers annually. Tour operators are now harnessing this market with special packages to a wide range of events.
Sporting events are also a growing attraction, with increasing numbers of people willing to travel to watch major events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. Host nations are therefore being encouraged to improve their infrastructure and tourism facilities in order to prepare for large influxes of tourists.
Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympics, is a key example of how sporting events can benefit the infrastructure for tourism. Says Bremner, “This huge event is expected to provide a platform for showcasing both Beijing and China. Beijing is investing RMB180 billion ($23.27 billion) in 142 urban infrastructure projects, including the construction of subways, light railways, motorways and airports”.
With a number of high-profile sporting events coming up in the next few years, Euromonitor advises both travel distributors and host countries to prepare well in order to take advantage of these goldmines of opportunity.