Sports tourism is flourishing in the Cayman Islands to the extent that as one major event is staged another one comes along faster than a West Indies bouncer.
The celebrated Middlesex Cricket Club is touring here from 16-26 April and then the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, makes the hop from Jamaica for the second annual Cayman Invitational track and field meet on 8 May at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
Both events will generate a much needed boost to the local economy and potentially create repeat and new visitors here.
Shomari Scott, director of Tourism, is a huge sports fan himself.
“This is an exciting time for sporting fans of the Cayman Islands as we welcome one of the most respected cricket clubs and the hottest sprinter of our times in consecutive months,” he said.
“Marylebone Cricket Club is steeped in tradition, having been established in 1787 and we are sure to see our local teams challenged during the visit.
“Similarly, with the Cayman Islands having been represented in track and field by such wonderful ambassadors as Cydonie Mothersill and Ronald Forbes, there is a deep rooted support for the sport.
“To be able to welcome the fastest man in the world will surely inspire our youth, excite track and field fans and help Cayman shine as we continue to establish ourselves as a sport tourism destination.
Apart from financial benefits, staging these events gives Cayman’s sports tourism extra kudos as a must-go destination.
Hosting big squash and Legends Tennis events here may not happen for a while since chief organiser Dan Kneipp went back to Australia in January but there are other events sprouting up, especially road runs, the Mercuryman Half Ironman in East End and there are football tournaments planned now that Jeffrey Webb is CONCACAF president and a FIFA vice-president.
Scott said: “Sports tourism is an essential niche market for the development of the Cayman Island’s already diverse tourism product. “The Cayman Islands was privileged to be provided with the opportunity to host the 2012 World Squash Open and on this basis, the government supported the event.
“However, since we are not responsible for hosting either the squash or the Legends tournaments, we are not in a position to speak for the organisers of these events with respect to whether the events will continue or how they will be managed in the future.”
Sports tourism is a vital component of the local economy.
“Sports tourism has a direct and sizeable effect on our economy and stimulates local businesses by providing an immediate injection of cash locally, such as funds spent on accommodations, meals and transportation,” said Scott.
“From the tourism perspective, it also brings large groups of people together as participants, fans and spectators which increases incremental visitation and enhances our Islands brand awareness.
“In addition, the strong word-of-mouth endorsement from sports tourists also helps to influence repeat visitation for years to come.”
Even if the squash and Legends tennis does not continue, Scott is confident that other events will help boost the economy.
“There are many sporting events on the Cayman Islands calendar which successfully add to the economy and drive visitation,” he said.
“These include the Marathon, Flowers Sea Swim, Invitational Track Meet, NORCECA volleyball tournament and many more.”
He is pleased that there is a strong culture of financial support not just from the government departments but also from the private sector.
“The list of public and private sector entities that support sporting events in the Cayman Islands is extensive,” Scott said.
“Given the vast potential and real benefits of sports tourism, at a time when traditional leisure and business tourism is still recovering from the recession, the DOT is pleased that public and private sector entities see the value of investing in sports with a view to establishing the Cayman Islands as a preferred sports tourism destination.”
The Department of Tourism expects to see an increase in tourism as famous athletes make it to our shores to help shore up Sports Tourism.