Sports tourism is a concept that has attracted increased interest in recent years. Perhaps the time is right for the Cayman Islands to stop talking and seize the opportunities it offers.
Given our consistently favourable climate and such first-class facilities as the Truman Bodden Sports Complex and Black Pearl Skate Park, along with our close proximity to the sports-mad United States, Cayman is an attractive and affordable destination for many sports-related events. We already have a good track record in this.
The training camp for track stars held a year ago on Grand Cayman was a remarkable success, for example.
Caymanian athlete Kareem Streete-Thompson helped to arrange the camp for several world-class American and Caribbean athletes. All of them raved about Cayman’s hospitality and overall atmosphere. All said they would happily return.
The recent Twin Spike Beach Volleyball Tournament brought rare energy to the sands of Seven Mile Beach.
Beach volleyball is one of the world’s most popular sports and includes thriving pro leagues in Europe and America. Organisers of the Cayman tournament say they are confident the event will blossom into an annual affair that draws numerous international pro teams and fans to Cayman. They may be right.
Sports tourism for Cayman should not hinge on the success or failure of individual competitions, however.
Government and the private sector should consider an ambitious collaboration to attempt to make the Cayman Islands internationally known as a sports destination.
This should not require a huge financial investment, but more of an intellectual one. Cayman Airways, hotels and restaurants might unite to offer packages designed to draw thousands to our shores for sports events.
Remember, if thousands of Americans are willing to come to Cayman to see a pirates landing and parade, thousands also are likely to come to take part or watch well-organised sports events.
Most importantly, our local sports organizations need to sit down and talk about ways they can draw tourists here.
For example, a packaged week of various high-quality sports events might work. Imagine seven days of triathlons, swim meets, sea swims, track meets, boxing matches, basketball games, rugby matches and more.
Visitors can compete in one or more sports events and watch the rest. Cultural festivals and concerts could help fill the schedule. It can be marketed as family friendly with less emphasis on drinking and street dances, boosting its potential to draw parents with children. Wisely organized, it could become another Pirates Week for us.
No one should think it will be easy to shape the Cayman Islands into a world-class sports destination. However, no one should think we cannot do it.