Sport Tourism Canada Survey shows country is ready for Sport Hosting to “Bounce Back”

OTTAWA, ON For the past several months, Sport Tourism Canada (STC) has been focused on responding to and preparing for a post-COVID sport hosting and economic reboot. It began with the STC COVID-19 Recovery Task Force which identified an adaptive recovery approach to the return of hosting sport events in the country.

The work of that group, inclusive of members from across the industry, was followed by the most comprehensive survey of local, provincial and national stakeholders in sport tourism ever conducted in Canada. The online survey covered host destinations, event rights holders and suppliers to the industry. The optimism of the respondents for a return to successful event hosting was evident in their feedback, even though the road to recovery may vary across the country.

More than 600 organizations responded to the survey conducted in December of 2020. It was designed to provide the necessary data to help guide decision-makers for the safe return of domestic sport events. Intended to understand the current state of the industry, along with the requirements for a safe return, it provides the information to restore confidence in hosting, participating in and attending sport events.

The overall study, divided into three distinct segments, looks at:

  1. Part 1: Sport hosting for domestic events / audiences
  2. Part 2: Sport hosting for international events / audiences
  3. Part 3: Consumer sentiment regarding sport event hosting during and post-pandemic.

The three major objectives for this study were to:

  • Provide meaningful, actionable insights into the current state of sport hosting / sport tourism in Canada.
  • Enable the return of sport event hosting and to restart local economies through sport tourism.
  • Provide information that will restore the confidence of participants, spectators and communities in hosting, attending and travelling to sport events.

The first report in a series of three industry studies, Bouncing Back – Preparing for a Sport Hosting and Economic Reboot – Part 1: Domestic is now available.

On the hosting side, feedback was received from 86 different communities from across Canada, including every province and territory.  Although most organizations report that modifications and staffing changes have occurred as a result of the pandemic, very few have been permanently affected, and indicated that the hosting side of the industry is resilient and looking forward to a strong comeback with sport event hosting. While pursuing bids for events delayed or cancelled in 2021, the survey results indicated that almost one-quarter of communities are looking to host the same number of bids as in previous years. The need for sustainable funding to support sport hosting was identified as a critical factor in continuing to host events. Most hosts feel they either have the required expertise to manage the pandemic, or at least have access to the level of expertise required to assist them. The key factor for a return of live sport events identified was clear guidelines from Public Health officials.

A broad spectrum of event rights holders responded to the survey, representing 80 different sports from 75 different communities of all sizes across Canada, including every province and territory. Although some organizations indicated they had to make significant staffing reductions, or close temporarily, there is optimism that they will be able to sustain their operations until events can safely return. This optimism carries over to sport event rights holders seeing new emerging opportunities, greater collaboration with partners, a focus on outdoor events, virtual events and operational efficiencies. Despite the challenges of 2020, 70% of rights holders plan to host events in some form in 2021.

Suppliers to the industry have been open and operating throughout the pandemic, but doing so with significant staffing modifications. Suppliers are a varied group, representing venues, hotels / accommodation providers and the many companies that support the execution of events. They reported staff layoffs, some re-hiring, and other staffing adjustments to cope with the absence of sport events being held. Their optimism can be seen in their anticipated ability to ramp up to successful sport event hosting within three months of a restart. Ensuring availability of goods and services to event hosts will be key to planning and delivering viable sport events across Canada.

The survey and report were developed by Sport Tourism Canada and conducted in both official languages. Sport Tourism Canada would like to thank Destination Canada for its support of this project and the continued commitment to sport tourism as a contributor to Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 while rebuilding the confidence of Canadians to travel and visit other locations, with sport as the primary motivator. STC would also like to thank all of the organizations that responded, as well as the many industry partners who assisted in the distribution of the survey.

Download the full survey report: Bouncing Back – Preparing for a Sport Hosting and Economic Reboot – Part 1: Domestic

Download the executive summary: Bouncing Back – Preparing for a Sport Hosting and Economic Reboot – Part 1: Domestic (Executive Summary)

About Sport Tourism Canada (STC)

Sport Tourism Canada is a non-governmental, member-based, capacity-building organization that promotes sport tourism as a grassroots economic development initiative at the community level. STC services over 500 members across Canada, including 130 municipalities, 300 national and provincial sport, multi-sport and major games organizations and a variety of other sport and tourism industry partners. Sport tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry in Canada with over $6.8 billion in annual spending by domestic and international visitors and is central to local and regional economic recovery from COVID-19.