A Strategic Approach To Sport Tourism

Two federal initiatives are in the works that will guide the future of sport tourism in Canada: A post-pandemic Federal Tourism Growth Strategy and the renewal of the 10-year Canadian Sport Policy. We asked GRANT MACDONALD, former chief operating officer, Sport Tourism Canada (STC), to elaborate on key recommendations STC has put forward on behalf of the sector.

By Angela Kryhul

September 14, 2022

Recommendation: Lead the alignment across governments, with the inclusion of lead organizations/departments, for sport, economic development, community/social development and climate change action.

Grant MacDonald: Perhaps the greatest opportunity is to connect not just those two policies [the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy and the Canadian Sport Policy], but the entire ecosystem so that everybody knows who can support, who can help and who can guide. It’s not just about one ministry, one department or one agency owning the sport tourism portfolio. And that alignment needs to happen vertically from federal down to the municipal level and horizontally across governments.

Ultimately, we want to ensure that Canada is a leading sports nation. We need to ensure that governments and agencies at the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels have the information they need in order to provide support for good sporting event projects to be developed, whether they’re homegrown or international events.

It’s happening in some cases, but I don’t think it’s happening by design. We’d like to be more systemic so that people understand what sport tourism is and they see the opportunities within it.

Recommendation: Develop consistent standards and methodology for the identification and evaluation of key sport event impacts and enable access to approved tools and resources as open source to the entire sport hosting ecosystem in Canada.

Grant MacDonald

GM: One of the learnings from the pandemic is that the industry needs more data. It’s been a bit all over the place, including multiple economic impact models in Canada. We need highly accurate, current data to tell us what the impact of sport tourism is in this country, because I don’t think it’s truly understood.

Right now there isn’t [an accessible data platform] at the provincial or national level. We should have a national data platform that tells us how many events are happening by province, by region within provinces and by sport. We also need to overlay the social and environmental impacts onto the economic impact because we know that a value offered by sport events, that other tourism sectors just don’t have, is the ability to connect with residents in a host community, to grow a sport within that community and to use sport as a platform to achieve many other outcomes beyond just heads in beds.

Recommendation: Protect Canada’s competitiveness in the supply chain for sport events against non-Canadian firms supporting the concept development, bidding, planning and delivery of sport events in Canada.

GM: There is an opportunity for Canada to be a leader in the provision of goods and services to the events that are planned and possible over the next decade. This means ensuring Canadian companies are aware of the opportunities and providing a platform so they can access RFPs or contracts in all parts of the country [and ultimately] to help rebuild the Canadian economy.

We want to ensure that the types of local supplier systems put in place for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Toronto Pan-Am Games can be available for provincial and national championships so that Canadian companies know what’s coming down the pike, because there isn’t a system in place that’s specific to sport event hosting.

Recommendation: Position Canada for future sport tourism growth by selling Canada and creating the opportunity for communities of all sizes to sell themselves and access new sport event business.

GM: When it comes to sport, we rally around a particular bid, but we don’t have that consistent thread of how Canada shows up to the rest of the world. When we’re selling our country, we often leave it to our local groups or local organizing committees. We’re great hosts… but we could be more consistent in our approach to winning business and to selling Canada.

Destination Canada has been a great partner to sport tourism by providing a look and feel on past international trade missions for a Team Canada approach. We can be more consistent in where we go and for what outcomes, and to do so with purpose, with everybody already on board and not trying to build that partnership each time we take Canada to market.

If anybody wants to take Canada to the world, they should have a toolkit at the ready so that they can project the same confidence and standards regardless of whether they’re bidding for a small single-sport event or a large mega event.

Recommendation: The sport tourism sector requires an organization that has the resources to lead and support the growth of sport events in Canada, for all provinces and territories and communities of all sizes.

GM: We endorse that an organization should be leading the Canadian sport tourism sector and should be resourced to be able to do so effectively. Who that should be is an ongoing discussion and we’re not making assumptions that it necessarily needs to be the way it was up until 2019.

We need to build awareness, trust and credibility with all levels of government. As a sector, we need to be very intentional about how we do it. Through the [recent federal recommendation] process, we have moved the needle to create more awareness.

We’re just at a milestone marker of what the future of sport tourism can be. We would like to inform a two-way conversation that ultimately builds awareness, credibility and a future sport hosting system that contributes to communities, economies, sport and business across this country, 52 weeks of the year.

The Canadian Sport Policy is set to be renewed in February 2023. This policy helps identify Canadian sport priorities and guides how federal, provincial and territorial governments advance sport (including funding decisions) for the next 20 years (2023 to 2033).

Canada is developing a new Federal Tourism Growth Strategy that will plot a course for growth, investment and stability, with a focus on labour gaps and instability, investment attraction and destination development, and long-term economic growth across the country.

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