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Sports Events Tourism: Theories, Concepts, Issues, and Impacts

Sports Event tourism provides a common platform for cooperation and development for both the sport and tourist sectors. S port tourism is a colloquial term that refers to the fusion of sporting and tourist activities (Mollahet al., 2021). Since the 1990s, both sport and tourism corporations, as well as academics, have paid increasing attention to sport tourism. Sport tourism is not a new concept, but the phrase has gained popularity in the recent decade as a way to characterize this kind of travel. Governments throughout the globe have launched sports tourism efforts that have met with different levels of success (Gibson, 2005). There are several diverse sub-niches within sports tourism, just as there are within eco-tourism, but the potential for sport as a tourist niche in other locations is maybe less well-known than it should be (Bull & Weed, 1999). Sports participants have varying associations with the activities they select and the communities that host these events, which may influence their decision to participate. These include occupational, environmental, and human factors issues, as well as physical health (Aicher et al.,2015).

Defining Sports Events Tourism

Sport tourism’s obscurity as a term is exacerbated in part by the difficulties in describing it. To date, most of the writing on the issue has focused on defining sport tourism as a whole rather than breaking it down into its component elements. Most authors use the terms “sport” and “tourism” interchangeably to express the concept of sport tourism. It is useful to understand what sport tourism is, but this definition is much too broad. Data cannot be effectively inferred because of the prohibitively large sample sizes owing to an excessively broad definition (Deery et al., 2004). There are two types of sport tourism: active and passive. The third type of athletic tourism, on the other hand, appears to be based on nostalgia, which is consistent with a broader trend in tourism. People who engage in physical activities, observe physical activities, or appreciate areas linked with such activities are known as sport tourists, and they go to these destinations for such purpose (Gibson, 2005).

Theories and Concepts of Sports Events Tourism

Before looking deeper into the ideas and concepts of sport event tourism, it is important to point out some of the academic problems. This is not the first time that the topic of sport tourism has come to a crossroads, according to Gammon et al. (2017). There is no acknowledged theoretical foundation for this industry’s development outside of special interest or niche tourism despite quality guaranteed, peer-reviewed research outputs being produced for over a decade. Sports event management, as well as a revival in serious leisure studies, have arguably left sport and tourism researchers lacking some fundamental principles of engagement. No theoretical model has yet been produced that correctly encompasses what academics feel to be crucial in the creation and consumption of sports-inspired tourism, despite a major growth in the sport tourism study community over the previous two decades. Gibson brings even more attention to these problems (2017).

Serious sports event tourism relies heavily on the notion of a serious leisure. Sport tourism involvement may be evaluated and explained using the six features of serious leisure that Gibson (2005) discusses. Subcultures and societal and personal identity creation are outlined in this section (Gibson, 2005). Social identity theory suggests that patterns of sport tourism engagement should be evaluated in terms of how strongly a person connects with an activity. A person’s level of involvement, for example, will have a significant impact on how they behave. Subcultures and the notion of identity are inextricably interwoven. Groups of people that share an interest in an activity like surfing or snowboarding typically form their own beliefs, attitudes, and customs based on those interests (Gibson, 2005).

Current sport tourism study takes advantage of the constraints framework created by leisure studies’ academics and researchers. A historical perspective is used to explore the constraints framework in North American leisure studies. The notion of constraint negotiation, as articulated by Gibson (2005) and highlighting the three categories of constraints: intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural, has taken researchers 10 years to adjust their views about how constraints interact with behavioral choices from seeing them as insurmountable hurdles to participation. Restrictions imposed in outdoor leisure might be useful to the sport tourism industry (Gibson, 2005).

Over ten years ago, social scientists began to focus on nostalgia as a topic of study. Tourist places all across the globe have incorporated a nostalgic theme into their renovations and marketing materials. For instance, while Hede (2005) found that the emotive and cognitive components of television programs influence post-consumption sentiments regarding Greece, he also found that telecasts had a significant impact on the attitudes of those who had seen them. Nostalgic sports tourism often includes visits to dream camps and halls of fame (Gibson, 2005). While visiting sports stadiums and museums might elicit feelings of nostalgia, so can a group of sports tourists who have had an event together, such as an annual bus excursion to the stadium to see their team play. Sports fans who have a long history of traveling to support their team might benefit from a deeper knowledge of sport tourism involvement via the use of these theoretical views, which share certain similar ideas and can be utilized alone or in conjunction with each other (Gibson, 2005).

One relevant theoretical framework for studying how and why people support large events is the Social Exchange Theory (SET), which has been used in many research. People will engage in the exchange process and help relevant efforts if they obtain advantages without any unanticipated expenditures, which is the premise of the SET model (Kim & Kaplanidou, 2019). When citizens see the advantages, their level of support rises. Most research that employed SET in their analysis of mega sport events focused on the economic, environmental and sociocultural aspects of citizens’ attitudes about the events and how these elements were linked to their support. SET-based research have demonstrated that citizens’ support for mega events is influenced by their perceptions of the events’ positive and negative impacts (Kim & Kaplanidou, 2019). For example, Ma et al. (2013) used this idea in their research of how host citizens’ perceptions of big sporting events changed. According to the findings of Presenza and Sheehan (2013), who also used the SET in their research, citizens’ views toward tourist development and their perceptions of their level of engagement in the formulation of strategy and direction for development are intimately tied one another. When If this hypothesis is applied to a wide range of settings, kinds of event tourism and even nations, it seems to hold up well (Boonsiritomachai & Phonthanukitithaworn, 2019)

The field of sport events tourism studies has also paid close attention to the concept of destination image or branding. Event sport tourism has gotten a lot of attention from governments throughout the world because of the belief that hosting a major sporting event would boost tourism and economic investment. Previous research on destination image and destination branding has largely been seen as incompatible from two independent study paradigms. On the other hand, some people believe these ideas have hindered the creation of an overarching concept for destination branding. Using a theoretical framework established by Gibson (2005), a destination’s brand may be developed through sport tourism and the behavior of sport tourists studied. Sport events may need that a connection between the event and the destination’s brand be shown (Chalip & Costa, 2005).

Additionally, seasonality is a crucial concept for both academic and practical reasons in tourist research. Destinations’ capacity to attract visitors has long been understood to be seasonal. Seasonality is greatly influenced by the changing climate throughout the year (Gibson, 2005). For instance, when it comes to winter sports destinations in the northern hemisphere such as skiing and snowboarding, the most popular months in the winter are December through February. The off-peak months are November through March and April. As a result, extending the tourist season is a major concern for places that rely on tourism. Sport is one method to achieve this, especially by having regularly scheduled league games that draw a reasonable number of fans during non-peak tourist months (Gibson, 2005).

Impacts of Sports Events Tourism

Internationally renowned iconic tourist events like the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup have the potential to have long-term or short-term consequences. Events are considered short-term if they take place in the immediate aftermath of the occurrence. The long-term period starts with the event’s bidding and continues until a future date that has not yet been decided. Because the emphasis is on the aftermath of an event, which happens by definition during the post-event phase, the prevent period is sometimes disregarded when discussing long-term effects (Solberg & Preuss, 2007). It seems that the long-term impact of major sporting events appears to be directed by a path-dependence development process. As a result, the event’s strategic planning and management are impacted by the local context’s resources and skills (Zagnoli & Radicchi, 2009). According to Fredline (2005), the economic, physical and environmental, and social impacts of sport tourism are all possible.

On the economic front, many major sporting events produce money that covers operating expenses but not investment expenses. Short-term earnings may not be adequate to meet operating expenditures, resulting in a need for more public funds to pay for the shortfall. That might have detrimental long-term effects on other activities that depend on tax money if it is true. A well-known case in point is the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, which left the city burdened with massive debt (Solberg & Preuss, 2007).

Multisport events also have an influence on the secondary structure, notably housing, in terms of physical and environmental impacts. During big multisport events, participants, officials, and members of the media are often housed in their own villages. There may be gentrification in these areas, which is frequently a stark contrast to the neighborhood’s former nature. It may be seen in the neighborhood renovations for the Olympics in Barcelona and Seoul or the Manchester railway station area in 2002. (Solberg & Preuss, 2007). Sport parks, on the other hand, are typically used to organize many sports facilities in a city. Recreational sports and cultural events are also offered in these parks, which are surrounded by parkland and service infrastructure that makes them ideal places for people to relax (Solberg & Preuss, 2007).

Host cities of big sports events typically experience an increase in civic pride and a feeling of self-actualization as a result of sport tourism’s social benefits (Fredline, 2005). The organization of a significant sporting event has the potential to improve individuals’ knowledge and abilities. Improvements in human capital may be attained in three ways at the very least. Firstly, volunteers in the hospitality sector may improve their skills and expertise by participating in hospitality training programs. People learned new talents, such as cooking, during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In most cases, the planning committees set up training programs aimed at improving workers’ abilities in the service sector. Taxi drivers for the 1988 and 2004 Olympic Games in Seoul and Athens and the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany were among those who received English language training (Solberg & Preuss, 2007). Secondly, we can increase our expertise and abilities to win more bid contests in order to attract congresses, trade shows and cultural and athletic events. As a last point, the ability to ensure a safe environment may be improved. For example, during their preparation for a large sporting event, volunteers might hone their abilities for spotting potentially dangerous circumstances. The local police are given stronger tools, and the security network is strengthened by establishing connections with national and international anti-terrorist groups (Solberg & Preuss, 2007).

Sustainability of Sports Events Tourism

No single definition or strategy to achieve sustainability has been adopted, but there has been recognition that it is much more than a “greening of events” and in this sense the discourse is strongly tied to appraisals of worth, arguments for public sector action and portfolios and populations (Getz & Page, 2016). Sustainability focuses on long-term circumstances, while sustainable development focuses on short-term outcomes (Gibson et al., 2012). Smaller sporting events are less likely to be seen as problematic spectacles than their larger, more commercialized counterparts because they are less advertised, more sanitized, and more accountable to local stakeholders. Local sports commission activities and small-scale event sport tourism are examples of sustainable tourism development for the host community (Gibson et al., 2012). According to these proponents of small-scale event sport tourism, it is a feasible alternative to the organization of large-scale events since it encourages an ongoing flow of visitors, utilizes existing facilities, and is of a size suitable with the host town. According to the authors, small-scale event sport tourism might be a viable alternative for sustainable tourism growth in many places (Gibson et al., 2012).

For many host cities, investing in major sports events is justification for promoting “sustainable development” or “sustainable regeneration.” According to a number of studies, sports events seem to have a negative impact on the social sustainability of host cities. Despite the fact that individuals are physically displaced from their homes, such events cause societal unrest that has little to do with their sporting qualities. Local inhabitants may find it challenging to build a sense of place, purpose, and belonging in their own communities while undergoing major upheavals. Events may bring in a new era, but the goodwill they inspire is unlikely to remain long in society (Smith, 2009).

Sports events may have a lasting ‘feel-good’ effect, but only if clever leverage programs are put in place. As a means of achieving social sustainability, this seems to be ineffectual. A “feel-good aspect” is a popular indicator for researchers to inquire about the general positive effects of an event. People are seldom asked in studies whether they feel better or how long these feelings last as a result of the encounter. Events’ social sustainability would be greatly enhanced if the “feel good factor” could be transformed into a “do good factor,” when people make continuous efforts to assist their local communities and act more responsibly. (Smith, 2009). Significant events have an unsatisfactory record in terms of social sustainability due to the neoliberal ideology of contending for footloose capital, which entails the regeneration of communities, rather than the regeneration in communities. In the wake of big events, cities see a rapid increase in population and infrastructure. There is a negative impact on existing communities. Rather than simply transferring problems elsewhere, socially sustainable principles demand for steady growth and meeting present requirements (Smith, 2009).

Contemporary Issues

Several issues can arise from sports event tourism. For instance, an overly positive outlook on the local tourist business might lead to excessive investment. Realistic expectations must be held by everyone participating in the planning and preparations process—for both short- and long-term outcomes. There is a risk that too many permanent enterprises may lead to bankruptcy, especially in the lodging sector if this is not addressed (Solberg & Preuss, 2007). In order to promote an event to lawmakers or the general public, event sponsors often engage consultants to prepare evaluations that emphasize the event’s advantages. As a consequence, people may have unrealistic expectations about how well tourism may be used in the long run. Event tourism and regular tourism both fall under this umbrella. After the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa spent money on new and renovated stadiums, for example, as reported by Giampiccoli et al. (2015). South Africa had an oversupply of goods as a result of its many sports stadiums and luxurious hotels. As expected, South Africa’s economy benefited from the 2010 World Cup; although, the beneficial effect was focused on the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and the huge wildlife parks and beaches situated nearby. Therefore, building stadiums and other sports infrastructure does not ensure that a location would benefit in the future.

Additionally, event planners and everyone engaged in event planning should coordinate their efforts in order to fulfill the high demand that occurs during an event. In this category, temporary lodgings such as dormitories, tents, or bureau buildings that have been repurposed are included. Cruise ships may be hired to alleviate some of the high demand for lodging in maritime cities. It is a smarter plan, even though it may lead to import leakage that reduces economic advantages for the local community, to build a smaller hotel capacity than is likely to be needed in the future (Solberg & Preuss, 2007).


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