Featured in the April/ May 2018 Travel Issue of Compete Magazine
Adult sports tourism is a relatively new travel niche spawned largely by LGBTQ+ and allied recreational athletes who play for small-to-large sports organizations around the globe. And the continued growth of their amateur sports tournaments and events has proved to spark positive economic benefits for host communities as well as the businesses large and small that partner with them.
This January an article in the Advocate, “The LGBT Economy is America’s Future” by Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell stated that, “If the total contributed value of the estimated 1.4 million American LGBT business owners is considered, our [LGBTQ community members] input to the economy is over $1.7 Trillion. That would make LGBT Americans the 10th largest economy in the world.”
Most of the planning for these local-to-international tournaments in the past has been done by volunteers. At the recent LGBTQ Events Summit held by Connect Sports and Nike, Connect vice president of meetings and events Patrick Higgins, SDL said, “So many individuals that own and operate LGBTQ sporting events are volunteers. The days of them trying to navigate the ever-changing world of sports tourism by themselves is over.”
The price tag of hosting a tournament is both expensive and time consuming. Sports organizations have leaned on local volunteers to help raise money to provide the ultimate entertainment experience for athletes and spectators alike. Now, thanks to Connect and Nike, sports organizations are learning about the numerous tools and resources that are available so organizations can focus on increasing tournament attendance. And attendance equals a heavier economic community impact for a host city or region.
NAGAAA, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance is a large international sports organization that has been holding multiple annual softball tournaments for over 40 years, including their annual flagship Gay Softball World Series. Their inclusive membership of gay and straight athletes that continues to enjoy rapid growth; they have 17,000 active players, 1,000 teams, 46 member city markets and more than 40,000 members on their distribution list from across Canada and the United States.
Another inclusive example is the National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL) where I served as a two-time league commissioner. Formed in 2002, the league has 200 teams in 24 leagues across the U.S. and Canada and plays its annual flagship tournament, the Gay Bowl, in a different member city each year. Our efforts to represent diversity, inclusion, equality and acceptance in sports were evident at our 2017 Gay Bowl played in Boston where all five professional major league teams, including the New England Patriots sponsored us!
Through tourism agencies or Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB), cities large and small are continuously looking for unique events to provide positive economic stimulation. And with that combined Trillion-plus dollar buying power of the LGBTQ+ members and their love for sports, the LGBTQ+ market makes perfect sense.
Everybody wins when sports organizations, CVBs, Sports Commissions and third-party housing companies collaborate to showcase a specific destination. Sports organizations can increase membership on a local, national and international level; CVBs are able to increase hotel nights for the community and revenue for local business; Sports Commissions can increase attendance at venues the leagues need; and third-party housing companies can receive commissions from hotels while helping the organization sort through the numerous housing needs.
For people who love to play sports, it’s always been about being active and making wonderful friends while playing the game they love. What continues to attract a diverse group of athletes to these teams and leagues has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s the fierce competition, the camaraderie and fun, the ability to give back to their host communities that keeps them involved. And the opportunity to bring these athletic weekend warriors together while helping communities increase visibility and visitors is a valuable partnership – a true Win-Win for everyone involved.
By Jared Garduno