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A new era for sports tourism and the Bahamian athlete

Published: Oct 17, 2013

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Sports tourism is gaining momentum in The Bahamas and this is a welcome addition to our tourism product.  Undoubtedly, the Bahama Bowl in December 2014, featuring NCAA Division I football, is a significant step to establishing The Bahamas as a premier destination for high-level sporting events.

Since the official opening ceremony of the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on February 25, 2012, the stadium has served as a catalyst for sports tourism.  During the first half of 2013, the stadium successfully hosted the 2013 CARIFTA Games; and while poorly attended, an English Premier League exhibition game against Jamaica’s National Team.  We expect that The Bahamas should have no problems attracting up to 10,000 visitors for the inaugural Bahama Bowl game next year.

As noted by MAC Commissioner Dr. John Steinbrecher, “The Bahamas has all the necessary ingredients for a successful American collegiate bowl game – fine facilities, a premier tourist destination and a community and a country that is rich in tradition, history and culture.”

Clearly, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) agrees.  And despite the torrential rains that delayed and shortened the course, women professional golfers will return for a second-annual tournament, albeit in January rather than May.  Likewise, Atlantis will host the third annual Battle 4 Atlantis NCAA Division I basketball tournament in November.  And the Miami Heat wrapped up a preseason training camp at Atlantis earlier in October.

Sports tourism is an effective mechanism to entice potential travelers who would not have otherwise considered The Bahamas as a destination.  The Bahamian government must continue to support the expansion of sports tourism, particularly during traditionally slow periods such as the fall and early winter.

But sports tourism must also be inclusive of the Bahamian population.  Whether through community outreach or event attendance, it is imperative that Bahamians have the opportunity to interact or watch professional athletes.  Particularly for our young men and women, professional athletes are often idolized without understanding of the commitment and discipline it takes to reach and maintain professional status.

We commend the recent efforts by the government and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to partner with Cuba to provide technical assistance to Bahamian athletes.  The Bahamian government signed the agreement for sports cooperation with Cuba on September 24.  Though The Bahamas will reap economic benefits from sports tourism, it may be the social benefits of sports espoused by Cuba that will reap far greater rewards for our local community.

The social objective of Cuba’s National Institute of Sports Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) is: “The practice of physical sport and recreational activities for all has the intention to promote a healthy, vigorous, and strong-character citizenship for defense and progress (of the country) with a profound sense of its civic duties.  Sport, physical education and recreation must be undertaken as a means of expansion and solidarity among the population, encouraging the best human values.”

The Bahamas is uniquely positioned to benefit from Cuba’s professional training methodologies and from sports tourism largely supported by an American audience.  The ongoing investment in both sports tourism and local athlete development will surely usher in a new era that cultivates a future generation of Bahamian athletes.

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