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Bob Yates (Bob Yates)
Bob Yates (Bob Yates)

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Q&A: How cities can profit from sports Add to ...

Sport tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry; in Canada, it yields approximately $3.4-billion in annual spending by domestic travellers alone.

And it’s not just larger metropolitan areas that stand to benefit. The effects of sport tourism are being felt everywhere from Moncton (home of next year’s Canadian Figure Skating Championships) to Prince George, where the 2015 Canada Winter Games will take place.

Bob Yates, principal with Yates, Thorn and Associates, a Victoria, B.C.-based consulting firm that specializes in regional and community planning, believes communities who want to profit from sport tourism need to be prepared.

Mr. Yates, a leader in sport and recreation planning, says communities sometimes make the common mistake of investing in infrastructure before planning specific events.

“It’s hard to justify spending $50-million on a swimming pool just to host an event there,” Mr. Yates says. “But if a community needs a new facility, then there’s justification for it. Instead of [building]a basic swimming pool, it’s worth adding money to make it the very best swimming pool so that it [can]be used to host events as well.”

So what's the best way to go about attracting a top tournament to boost your city's bottom line? Bob Yates joined us for a live chat.

Niamh O'Doherty - Hi everyone. My name is Niamh O'Doherty, and I'll be moderating this live chat. Please feel free to start sending in your questions now.

12:49

Niamh O'Doherty - Today we'll be talking to Bob Yates, principal with Yates, Thorn and Associates, a Victoria, B.C.-based consulting firm that specializes in regional and community planning. He'll be answering your questions and explaining how cities can best profit from sporting events.

12:57

[Comment From Bob Yates ]

Hi Niamh, pleased to be here and happy to answer questions.

12:58

Niamh O'Doherty - Hi Bob. Perhaps, first off, you could explain a little bit about what you do in the area of sports tourism?

1:00

[Comment From Bob Yates]

I have been involved for over 25 years. We first looked at sport events in teh 1980s for the provincial governments, realizing that the money in sport is in the events. Through the 1990s I worked for the Canadian Tourism Commission, developing sport tourism strategies across Canada. Since 2000 we have continued working with many communities, large and small, to help them understand and capitalize on events.

1:02

Niamh O'Doherty - Are communities getting more interested in marketing themselves as destinations for sporting events? Has there been a surge in popularity?

1:04

[Comment From Bob Yates]

Yes they certainly have. In the 1990s it was just a few communities who understood the value of sport events. Now I would say that many of the midsize communities in Canada are actively pursuing sports events as a way of meeting a number of tourism objectives.

1:05

Niamh O'Doherty - Any reason for the increase in interest? Do high-profile events like the Vancouver Olympics help, for example?

1:05

Niamh O'Doherty - Readers, please feel free to send in your own questions/comments now too. Don't be shy!

1:07

[Comment From Bob Yates]

I think the falloff in other forms of tourism since 9/11 is one cause. Another is a general interest among parents who have aspirations for their kids and recognize that travel is an essential way of getting those kids a positive experience. Yes certainly the Olympics help but they also take a lot of resources which could be applied by communities to many smaller events.a long-term event strategy attached to them.

1:07

Niamh O'Doherty - Thanks Bob. And now to our first question...

1:08

[Comment From Matt E ]

Are certain sports more desirable based on the demographics of their fans? Who creates more tourism dollars, older fans (say, the Brier) or younger fans (say, the Memorial Cup)?

1:11

[Comment From Bob Yates]

Yes certainly the demographics of particular sports are critically important for the city in selecting which events to bid on. Older demographic groups spend more money and example of over 40 is rugby teams was noted in the Globe article this morning. But you also have to understand the sport groups which put on these events are more oriented to younger demographics. And it is essential to have these sport volunteers bidding for and actually running the events

1:12

Niamh O'Doherty - Could you expand on that a little Bob? Are you saying communities should market themselves towards those groups that will run the event completely?

1:16

[Comment From Bob Yates]

The vast majority off the sport events that we are talking about are organized by volunteers. Most of these volunteers are coaches or parents of younger athletes. You only have to look at baseball for instance with the vast majority of participants are under 20 years of age. So these events, say a provincial championship, need lots of volunteers and those people are more interested in events which focus on these younger age groups. Cities have to recognize that there are lots of different objectives to be met in a successful sports tourism strategy. Not only do the people in the economic development Department and the people who owned hotels have objectives which involve people spending money, but the objectives of the sport groups and the volunteers have also to be met.

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