Making Grenada a viable sports-tourism destination

Posted by at 10 October, at 14 : 15 PM Print

Caribupdate Weekly, Editorial

October 9, 2014

We are excited, as we are sure all Grenadians are, that everything seems to be falling in place for next year’s cricket Test, England versus the West Indies, to be played at the National Stadium.

The hosting of the game is an opportunity for the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique to prove that they remain among the most fervent cricket fans globally, and will rally around the West Indies at all times.

It also will be a chance for Grenada to demonstrate that though small and relatively poor, it has the capacity – both on and off the field – to host world-class events and international sports teams.

Some in the business community, particularly our hoteliers, already are licking their chops at the expectant windfall from the Test that will be played from April 21 – 25, 2015.

“We’ll have to employ some staff for that period,’’ says Coleman Redhead, director of sales and marketing at Rex Grenadian Resort. “It is going to have a huge financial impact on us and, of course, on the purveyors who sell us food and beverage items. We’ll have to stock up quite a lot.’’

Redhead wants the Grenada government to “try and get these cricket games more often’’, saying “sports-tourism is the way to go’’.

Our excitement at us hosting the Test – an example of a sports-tourism event – is tempered by the realization that it is a self-generating marketing and public relations activity. Roving bands of English fans always travel the world in support of their cricket and football teams. They go, barring a traumatic event such as a war, revolution or an earthquake in the host nation.

It’s the same with Spicemas. Our annual carnival is mostly a self-generating marketing and PR event; expatriates and non-national, in larger or smaller numbers depending on their finances, will visit for the festival, irrespective of what is done by the Spicemas Corporation (SMC) and the Grenada Tourism Authority.

This newspaper’s concern is what do we do about the much-heralded sports-tourism – apart from calling on government to do something – when no self-generating marketing event like a Test or a carnival is on the horizon.

As a nation, we appear to lack not just the means but also the creativity to develop and sustain a plan that will make us a viable and an interesting sports-tourism destination year-round.

We are too comfortable with annual, easy-to-do routines, with everyone operating in silos and defending their little turf. They pull out the template from last year, and the year before, and the year before.

The template may call for hiring a consultant; doing a media blast; posting information on the web; paying someone to do radio and television commercials; and then seeking free advertisement from the rest of the media by appealing to their patriotism and love of country. It’s time to discard that template.

All groups – state-owned, statutory, private sector, and even our cash-strapped national sporting organizations – must budget for everything, including advertising.

As for our national sports organizations, it’s mindboggling that these groups, which are either dead broke or in chronic debt, insist every year on each organizing separate events; no attempt at a festival day or weekend of sports when Grenadians could be entertained, for instance, by some top-class relay track events; T20 cricket; and 30-minute knock football games – all at the same venue.

And the SMC, whoever is running the corporation, just sees carnival as a cultural event; that’s even though, we do not have the strength and quality to maintain two months of only cultural events after the launch of Spicemas. There is no good reason why the SMC cannot collaborate with sports clubs and national sports organization to incorporate sporting events into the two-month period leading up to Spicemas.

The same approach – mixing sports and culture – could be taken with other events such as Rainbow Festival and Carriacou Regatta.

We made track star Kirani James a sports-tourism ambassador in 2012. But, there’s no sign of a plan of when, and how best, to use the young man. However, it’s not only Kirani.

There are Grenadians based at home with the talent and expertise that can be utilized as organizers, spokespersons and entertainers in regular programs that could attract patrons – local and foreign – and generate revenue. It may not be millions, as in hosting a Test match, but it will be enough to keep money circulating in the country.

And in all that Caribupdate Weekly is suggesting, we believe the private sector must play a lead role.

It’s very well and very good, and appreciated too, when businesses make cash or in-kind donations to institutions, offer a student a scholarship or bursary, or assist with a project in some community. But, our businesses ought to become more enterprising; consider moving to the next level by engaging in sports, cultural and community projects that offer the potential for economic longevity and self-sustainability.

We would like them, for example, to present government – and the nation as a whole – with an idea for a sport-tourism event, and outline the role they’d be prepared to play in launching and sustaining the project over a period of years.

 

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