Understanding Olympic Tourist Behaviour: Implications for Maximizing the Tourism Impacts of London 2012

Article excerpt

The aim of this research is to provide a deeper understanding of Olympic tourist behaviour in order to underpin Olympic tourism leveraging provision, especially in terms of marketing. At a recent Economic and Social Research Council Seminar at Bournemouth University (January, 2008) on leveraging the benefits of the London 2012 Games, which focussed on maximising the tourism potential, a key outcome highlighted the lack of research on understanding the Olympic tourist, which practitioners highlighted as being key to developing tourism leveraging strategies. Although the Olympic tourist is the focus of this research, it still forms part of research adding to the body of knowledge in the wider area of sport tourism. The paper will begin with a review of existing literature in key areas before describing the research methods to be used in the data collection period (August, 2008) whilst highlighting the contribution to knowledge this research will make.

Over recent years the volume of academic investigation in sport tourism has increased rapidly, yet the majority of this work is criticised for being in its infancy, with a useable and coherent body of knowledge being slow to emerge.1 Much current research lies in the areas of contextualising the subject, which although undoubtedly useful, maintains an area of research saturated with descriptive studies about 'what' is taking place. Without doubt sport tourism research is now at a crossroad and needs to move from an explanatory to an exploratory focus. (2) Academics (3) highlight there is an overem phasis on developing typologies of participants, which are over simplistic; however, coupling these with research that provides a deeper understanding of the sport tourist would provide a much more powerful tool in developing provision. Furthermore, it is evident that research focusing on those participating in sport tourism, rather than the sport tourism product, will help move this academic area forward by providing an understanding of the multitude of impacts, which can add structure to policy and provision decisions (4) especially for marketing. Understanding such behavioural factors is of major importance to those involved in marketing. (5)

The Olympic Games exemplify the significant numbers of sport tourists who will travel in order to watch a variety of sports events. These passive sport spectators are simultaneously engaging in a very active form of tourism by travelling to watch sports events. Sport spectating is one of the largest leisure behaviours in contemporary society, (6) with over 6m tickets being sold for the Sydney Olympics. (7) The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games provide the UK with the biggest sport tourism opportunity on offer. Barcelona 1992 helped drive the city from 16th to 3rd most popular short destination break in Europe. Whilst Sydney 2000 generated an extra 15% in visitor numbers during the event month and 11% in the event year.

This research illustrates that sport spectating is one of the biggest leisure behaviours, that the Olympic Games attract significant numbers of sports spectators who will travel to watch sport events, and that there is a distinct need to understand why rather than describe what it is that is happening in order to develop marketing provision. This research will develop a deeper understanding of those who travel to watch the Olympic Games, and who simultaneously travel to areas beyond the Games. Targeting this segment will provide a deeper understanding of those Olympic tourists who are key to leveraging the tourism impacts of the Games beyond the host city. Leveraging refers to the potential to maximise the tourism impacts, and decisions to host sports events should be based on the extent to which strategies can be developed to effectively leverage those impacts. (8) This suggests that impacts need to be carefully managed and strategies need to be in place in order for the desired impacts to occur. …