Sports Tourism in Cyprus: A Study of International Visitors

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Sports Tourism in Cyprus: A Study of International Visitors

In industrial nations, sports tourism contributes 1% to 2% of gross national product, while the contribution of tourism in general is 4% to 6% (Hudson, 2003). In the United States, the Travel Industry Association (TIA) reports that the crisis in tourism following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and elsewhere did not extend to sports tourism; the number of sports tourists remained steady (Neirotti, 2005). Although sports tourism has been an emerging trend in the tourism industry only since the mid-1990s (Gibson, 1998; Hinch, Jackson, Hudson, & Walker, 2005), it seems to be one form of tourism not marked by decline during difficult times (Karlis, 2006).

The nation of Cyprus has traditionally relied on the sun and sea in marketing its tourism industry. But a recent steady decrease in tourism in Cyprus (during 2000-2007, visits fell from 2,434,285 to 2,416,086) has the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) considering new approaches to selling its tourism product. A focus on sports tourism is one approach being weighed.

In 2003 the CTO adopted a tourism development plan, and accompanying strategy for implementation, with 2010 as the target date. The plan identified competitive and recreational sports as likely contributors to the achievement of its five objectives: (a) increasing per-tourist expenditure, (b) improving winter season tourism, (c) extending tourists' stays in Cyprus, (d) increasing increasing the number of tourist arrivals in Cyprus. The CTO's plan called specifically for the development of sports services and sports-related human resources and for the organization of sports events.

Research by Papanikos (2002) indicates that countries interested in expanding sports tourism must carefully consider how to go about that task. Building new facilities is not necessarily the right approach to establish a sports tourism market, and Papanikos advises officials like those in Cyprus to pursue extensive research before investing in the sports tourism industry (2002). Thus the CTO, prior to creating its 2010 plan, completed a SWOT analysis--an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats characterizing an enterprise--to evaluate sports tourism's appropriateness as a major pillar of the strategic plan for tourism in Cyprus (Kartakoullis & Karlis, 2002). The analysis by Kartakoullis and Karlis (2002) indicated that potential existed for developing sports tourism in Cyprus. Strengths and opportunities were plentiful, and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, would provide a means to educate the international community about Cyprus's sports tourism potential. The analysis also noted, however, that positioning Cyprus as a sports tourism destination would demand the collaboration of the nation's tourism and sports industries and experts, given certain internal weaknesses such as lack of existing expertise in sports tourism. Organizations assuming a role in developing sports tourism in Cyprus would be able to administer services effectively only if proper strategic management were provided.

Kartakoullis and Karlis's SWOT analysis (2002) was the initial study concerning sports tourism in Cyprus. It argued that Cyprus has all the necessary elements of a sports tourism destination, and it comprised a first guide for the CTO and the national government, as well as interested private tourism and sports groups. None of these players had a formal policy on sports tourism, and all were likely to be needed to administer future sports tourism services. A series of issues was identified that the three players would need to consider. The present study grew from those identified issues and represents expanded research on sports tourism's potential in Cyprus, as called for by Kartakoullis and Karlis.

To suit the present study's purpose, the definition of sports tourism offered by Gibson, Attle, and Yiannakis (1997)--namely, that sports tourism is travel undertaken in order to participate in recreational or competitive sports--was expanded. …