VIDEO: Thomond Park summit to focus on sport tourism market

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

THOMOND Park will again play host to a major conference focusing on sport tourism this May, drawing delegates from around the world to Limerick for the two day summit.

The second European Sport Tourism Summit - backed by Shannon Airport again this year - will take place on May 14 and 15 in the stadium, drawing delegates from as far afield as Korea and the US, with the lion’s share in attendance representing local authorities, sports bodies, federations, clubs, charity organisations and communities around Ireland.

The brainchild of Keith Wood and Mark O’Connell of W2 consulting, the event was attended last year by some 240 delegates who heard expert testimony from Martin Snedden, who was CEO of the New Zealand 2011 Rugby World Cup. He spoke in glowing terms of Ireland’s potential to host the tournament.

Former Munster and Irish star Wood said that while the Rugby World Cup is the sport tourism event under major focus at the moment, there is a huge opportunity for Ireland to grow its current estimated annual revenue of €50m from the sector.

“There is a lot of excitement here at home and internationally, and rightly so, about Ireland’s bid for the event,” he said. “I believe it is a case of when rather than if we host a Rugby World Cup.

“It would attract up to 350,000 visitors and also generate anything up to €800m in revenue for the country and thousands of jobs. Couple that with the €200m we anticipate sport tourism will be generating annually and you hit the €1bn mark in terms of revenue from sport tourism in one year,” he explained.

Mr Wood said last year that Limerick was the “ideal place” to host the high profile conference.

“From the people who have turned up, I am very happy - we took a fair punt to try and get this to work and we wanted to do it in Limerick,” he said.

Mr O’Connell pointed to the fact that Limerick is “blessed with the facilities and have perhaps the best stock of sport tourism facilities and events outside of Dublin”.

“Limerick really is a prime example of a sport tourism city and county at a national and, indeed, international level, certainly in terms of the population base,” he said.

“At the Summit there will be an opportunity to see how Limerick can grow it’s sport tourism business as well as how others can replicate what Limerick is doing.”

Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation David Grevemberg, who is deemed one of the world’s leading authorities on sport tourism, will attend the Thomond Park conference in May, along with Richard Hills, Managing Director of Ryder Cup Europe, Paul Smith, Head of City Delivery for England Rugby World Cup 2015 and Mike Laflin of SportCal, a global leader in sport market intelligence.

This year’s event will also include the inaugural Shannon Group plc sponsored European Sport Tourism Awards as well as industry expert sessions and the European Sport Tourism Academic Conference.

For full details, see www.sporttourismsummit.ie.