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MIGRATION, TOURISM AND NEAR-UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO BROADCASTS AND SOCIAL MEDIA HAVE UNLOCKED BILLIONS OF POTENTIAL FANS — but they don’t live in your city, and don’t necessarily speak your language. The next 10 years will be a gold rush, as professional teams and leagues race to claim this emerging audience.

Sports Tourism

Sports tourism in the US adds up to $9.45 billion, and it’s going up fast. Tourists already spend $1.15 trillion globally. Smart money will increasingly find ways to integrate sports and tourism. Three main categories define the current sports tourism market: fandom, recreational sports travel and youth tournaments.

  • Us Sports Tourism



Price is no object: Through a partnership between CAA Premium Experience and iRENA International based in Beijing, Chinese basketball fans spent as much as $10,000 each for a package to come watch Kobe Bryant play in his final NBA game.

Long-term benefits: The seven most recent countries (Malaysia, UAE, South Korea, etc.) to join the Formula 1 calendar have experienced an average boost in annual tourism of 69% since their first race.

It’s not all about the mega-events: The Olympics and World Cup are mired in controversy because of the construction investment required. A year before the World Cup in South Africa, the country hosted the British & Irish Lions all-star rugby team on a 10-match tour. It required no investment, but 40,000 fans flew into South Africa—making it “more lucrative than the World Cup,” according to the South African Tourism Bureau.


94,000 American golfers travel to play in Britain each year.

The Honolulu Marathon has a total economic impact of $86 million. Most of that is spent by runners coming from Japan, who drop $68 million while there.

The 2014 Gay Games brought 15,000 people to Cleveland-Akron, Ohio, from other states and countries—8,000 of them athletes. The event pumped $52 million into the region’s economy.


According to a National Association of Sports Commissions study, the travel industry built around youth sports brings in an estimated $7 billion.

Round Rock, Texas, built a sports complex with 20 baseball fields, 6 basketball courts and 12 volleyball courts. The soccer and football fields will be ready by 2018, but already up to 40,000 children come to the city for tournaments every year.

Rochester, Minnesota, is the king of volleyball tournaments, bringing in 110,000 visitors a year who booked 32,000 hotel rooms.


HarborCenter, Buffalo: A hockey epicenter with hotel, restaurants, shops:

  • Practice facility for Buffalo Sabres
  • Home ice for 2 college teams, a women’s team and a junior team
  • Host for 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships, NHL Draft and NHL Scouting Combine
  • Hosts 25 youth tournaments; 75% of the teams from out of town, as far away as Russia and Japan

Promoting sports tourism is a major goal of our Western New York sports holdings. With the Bills, we attract almost half of our season ticket members from outside the Buffalo market, including 10% from Canada. We estimate that the Sabres see 15% of fans cross the border from Canada each game night.

Kim Pegula

Co-owner, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres; president, Pegula Sports & Entertainment, builders/operators of HarborCenter sports complex

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