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The United Nations World Tourism Organization’s secretary-general Taleb Rifai this week insisted sporting events such as FIFA World Cup 2010 and the London Olympics 2012 can act as catalysts to revive the ailing global travel and tourism industry.
So he would be among the first to applaud the foresight of the organisers of the inaugural World Sport Destination Expo, which runs from July 5-9, 2010, at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg.
For the first time, the world’s sport tourism industry will be able to meet, confer, network and conduct business under one roof in a groundbreaking environment – all while the FIFA World Cup is completed nearby.
With the UNWTO reporting an eight per cent drop in global tourism in the year up to April, Rifai told a meeting of the Tourism Society in London: “We are facing a very serious drop in demand. Going back to the good old days is probably unrealistic. Governments have to understand we require policies and actions that do not hinder travel.”
Major sports events therefore are, as Rifai asserted, essential in underpinning any future global tourism recovery.
And while the eyes of the world’s sports industry will be on South Africa next summer, when the 19th FIFA World Cup is played out, there has never been a better time – or place – to launch the industry’s first global marketplace and forum.
Sion Rapson, global business director of World Sport Destination Expo, explained: “The sports tourism industry is a US$600 billion-a-year market and it has become obvious to all involved that there is a need for people within that industry to be able to meet in a business-centric environment to discuss the best way forward.
“The launch of the World Sport Destination Expo fulfils that objective and offers a platform for sporting destinations, hotels, resorts, specialist tour and event organisers, sporting bid committees, worldwide media and elite buyers to showcase their services and facilities to the industry’s key personnel.
“Sport, sporting events and travel and tourism are inextricably linked, so this is a must-attend event for those companies involved in this marketplace, and for those interested in procuring a market share in what is a burgeoning industry.
“The initial response to the event has been encouraging and we believe it will become an essential fixture in the calendar of the sports industry.”
Danny Jordaan, the chief executive officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup organising committee, said: “The World Cup is about much more than just 64 games of football spread over 30 days. This World Cup could unite South Africa more than any other event has done. The World Cup gives an unprecedented opportunity to nation-build, to brand our country and to leave a lasting legacy.
“Whether a city or a region is eager to win the rights to host major sporting events or a hotel or resort is offering sporting facilities, they should participate in this must-attend exhibition.”