Industry Experts: Travel Booming in Response to Pent-Up Demand | Sports Destination Management

Industry Experts: Travel Booming in Response to Pent-Up Demand

Sep 03, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Pack your bags and start your engines. It looks like America is traveling again, and in a big way. A huge way, even, if market indicators are right.

Economic woes are clearly in the rear-view and the travel industry is seeing a boom as a result of pent-up demand. While there is growth in the vacation market, it’s especially evident in sports travel where there is an emphasis on quality events and experiences.

And make no mistake: People have missed traveling to tournaments, whether youth or professional. Grandview Research, for example, noted, that “according to the Sports and Entertainment Consumer Trends Report 2021, 82 percent reported that they missed the experience of watching live events. People are more eager than ever to make a full-day experience of any outing.”

“Sports tourism is an indispensable economic factor for the sports business,” says ISPO. Two driving factors of sports events listed by ISPO were the following:

  • Sustainability: It is no longer enough to have recycling containers at events. Travelers expect a concerted effort on the part of event owners as well as city officials, since change needs to start at the top, and become, if not a mandate, a very clear expectation.
  • Digitization: No surprise here. ISPO notes, “More travelers are using online platforms and apps to plan and book their trips individually. Vacationers are increasingly using electronic devices such as smartphones and smartwatches for outdoor activities. According to the Outdoor Consumer Report, more than half of those surveyed use apps to track their activities and collect important performance data. The goal of operators and sports brands should therefore be to create a seamless digital experience for travelers.”

The Transportation Industry

Don’t think travelers have forgotten how erratic air travel has been. Unfortunately, say aviation officials, those challenges could remain in place, at least for the time being.

“Air travel demand is strong and the consumer is in good financial shape, particularly the premium consumer base,” Delta Airlines’ CEO, Ed Bastian, told reporters at Hospitality Net. “After years of spending on goods, consumers want to travel. It’s their No.1 big-ticket purchase priority, and they desire premium experiences.

At the same time, aviation infrastructure is still fragile, and the industry continues to face multiple constraints across the supply chain, aircraft delivery delays and training needs. As a result, we see a significant gap between the supply that is in place and what demand could sustain, and we expect this gap will remain for an extended period of time.”

“While our network is largely restored at this point, it is not optimized, especially for post-pandemic shifts in business travel,” added Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan. “I expect [corporate travel] to continue to come back, but I think it is going to trail restoration of leisure for a while.”

Avis Budget Group’s Joe Ferraro also told reporters he sees the rental car demand as continuing to be strong. “It appeared the industry has returned to normal seasonal trends. In general, trends for the quarter were what we had seen pre-COVID and show that we are no longer in a COVID environment as it pertains to the business dynamics and seasonality. Overall, demand for travel is robust, and we believe the summer of 2023 will be one for the record books.”

Travel is trending upDestination-Driven Travel

Ferraro further noted that in 2022, his company saw increased business in destination markets. This year, it’s evening out a bit.

“Last year, we saw demand materialize in locations that supported beach, mountains or areas of high outdoor activities. And while this was still true this year, there is more robust return to cities, and as this continues into the summer, it allows utilization to be more evenly distributed.”

This is consistent with the reports from outdoor sports organizations, which showed that sports like fishing, hunting, trail running, hiking (often accompanied by camping) grew tremendously in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Hotels Reporting Increased Business

The hotel and accommodations industries are likewise trending up, with an emphasis on group travel (which includes sports tournaments). The sports-cation, which bookends sightseeing tours around tournaments, is an enormous driver in this regard.

Marriott CEO, Anthony Capuano told, “The group segment had another great quarter. Group revenues are expected to remain strong going forward. Meeting planners are beginning to book further out, a trend we’re also seeing with transient customers. Recovery in business transient demand remains slow but steady, with demand from top corporate accounts progressing modestly in the quarter. And we continue to see real legs to this blended trip phenomenon, we think that’s going to continue to drive occupancy, particularly in the days of the week that historically we considered shoulder days.”

International Travel is Trending Up

You might not have been expecting it but sports travelers are hungry for across-the-border experiences. In fact, an entire industry has sprung up to service this market. Google “international sports tourism,” for example, and you’ll get dozens of hits from companies eager to take athletes and teams to competition in other countries, whether that means Canada or Mexico – or even Europe or the U.K.

Marriott CEO, Anthony Capuano told reporters, “We continue to see continued recovery on cross‐border travel, which gives us another layer of optimism.”

Grandview research also found that some events were aligning themselves with travel companies in order to plan a more robust experience for travelers:

From January 2023, inspiresport, the top UK provider of young sports development tours, will be a partner in an exclusive new collaboration with Cricket Scotland. The company has recently launched The R66T Festival of Cricket and The R66T Dubai cup, as well as offering domestic tours to Lancashire Cricket

In September 2022, Gulliver's Sport Travel, the Group Travel Specialist, announced a one-year partnership where Waratahs Alumni host four sports travel tours during the Rugby World Cup in France featuring Darren Coleman, Phil Waugh, Tony Dempsey, and Ian Kennedy.

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