REPOST: Sport tourism: $5.47M economic impact

Apparently, sports is no longer just a cultural or recreational aspect of life. It is a booming industry that has helped stimulate local economies and put several athletes into lists of the world’s richest people. And for tourism, it is an important revenue earner. Take a look at this report from Times Daily:

The Ole Miss team of John Thigpen, left, and Parker Davidson, right, display the fish they caught Friday. The team finished in ninth place. [ALLISON CARTER/TIMESDAILY]
FLORENCE — Sporting events are a vital aspect of the area’s tourism economy, and the impact just keeps growing each year.

If there was any doubt of the role sports tourism plays, consider this: The National Association of Sports Commission reports visitor spending associated with sports events in North America was $10.47 billion in 2016.

The local numbers are impressive as well with a $5.47 million economic impact to the Shoals via sport tourism in 2017.

That figure represents a $400,000 increase over 2016, according to Suzie Shoemaker, manager of sport/event sales for Florence Tourism.

“The bulk of this impact is from fishing with longer tournaments meaning longer stays in the area,” Shoemaker said. “We had some back-to-back tournaments which helped as well.”

She said the goal for next year is a 20 percent increase. Plans are in place to see that come to fruition.

The addition of another college bass tournament in April, the Bass Master College Series Southern Tour Event, should help. It’s a three-day tournament.

Florence Tourism Board Chairman David Muhlendorf said there’s no question fishing is a major component to the success of sport tourism locally. Holding tournaments in the cooler months is the goal.

“Our focus is to try to create events that will allow our hoteliers to fill rooms at times when travel is down,” he said, adding that next weekend’s Winter Blues catfishing tournament on Wheeler Lake is one such event.

Shoemaker said the challenge to bring in a wider variety of sporting venues is a priority.

Currently, the area predominantly relies on fishing, baseball, basketball, softball and disc golf. In recent years the Renaissance Man Triathlon has been a growing attraction as well. It brings people to the area for at least two days.

“We’re working on getting other sporting events for the future,” Shoemaker said, adding there’s special emphasis on girls’ sports.

As for how the economic impact is determined, Shoemaker said surveying participants reveals a true picture of time and money spent in Lauderdale County.

“We ask very particular questions of tournament participants, detailing how much money they spend in the various areas of tourism while they’re here,” she said.

Muhlendorf said widening the diversity of activities in the area will be key to making northwest Alabama attractive to visitors.