The recent Government announcement of The Gathering Diaspora 2013 project could generate an additional €23 million in sports tourism revenue for the Shannon Region. That’s the view of Mark O’Connell of Focus Consulting, who addressed delegates at the National Sports Conference in the Clarion Hotel, Limerick on Friday last.
The conference titled Positive Change Through Sport – All To Play for was organised by Shannon Development to highlight the economic and social benefits of sport, as Limerick’s reign as a European City of Sport 2011 draws to a close.
“Recent analysis by Focus Consulting revealed that up to 71,800 extra bed nights could be created in the Shannon Region through specific diaspora sports projects,” Mr O’Connell said.
“Currently the economic impact of sports tourism is worth an estimated €60m per annum to the region. Based on Focus Consulting’s analysis, diaspora sports projects could generate a 38% increase in sports tourism revenue.
“Capitalising on the legacy of Limerick European City of Sport 2011, the diaspora project has the potential to attract more sports-based tourism to Limerick city and the wider Shannon Region,” he continued.
“The core element of diaspora strategies is to encourage temporary return visits to the homeland. These include short, targeted visits by highly skilled expatriates who may be working in the global sports tourism industry. Diaspora sports tourism could be developed across a variety of sectors including international sports conferences and events; specialist training centres; mass participation events, sport themed festivals and elite sporting events,” Mr O’Connell added.
Guest speaker, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan said, “There is no doubt that in achieving European City of Sport status, Limerick has had a great opportunity to use sport, one of its great strengths, to address the need for regeneration, in a creative and dynamic way.
“Since the European City of Sport programme was launched earlier this year ,a significant programme of sport has been completed. We need to keep sport and physical activity top of the agenda to ensure we develop healthy lifestyles from an early age.
Highlighting the impact of Limerick’s reign as a European City of Sport in 2011, Dr Vincent Cunnane, chief executive, Shannon Development said, “Over the past number of years, through the efforts of Shannon Development, Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council and other local partners, Limerick has been adapting and redefining itself as a city.
“Limerick’s rich sporting heritage was an obvious strength on which to build. It is estimated that sports events in Limerick and the Shannon Region will generate an estimated €70m this year, an additional €10m of this as a direct result of Limerick’s status as a European City of Sport for 2011.
“Securing the prestigious title has undoubtedly enhanced Limerick’s growing international reputation as a leading centre for sports activities. It afforded us a significant opportunity to secure more business and economic development through sport events and sports related business events and conferences.”
“Our aim has always been to turn the European City of Sport into a legacy event that would have a beneficial impact not just for one year, but for the years ahead. We are delighted that we have a strong pipeline of exciting new sports tourism related events for next year and beyond which will be announced as they are finalised,” he added
The conference attracted an expert panel to discuss a number of themes, among them sport in the economy, business and urban regeneration. Speakers included: John Fitzgerald, chairman, Limerick Regeneration Board, who highlighted how sports are helping enrich and regenerate communities.
Neil Ross, head of sport operations for North Lanarkshire in Scotland, who is responsible for some 20 facilities, which attract over four million annually to North Lanarkshire, gave an international case study on regeneration through sport.
Boxing legend, Barry McGuigan talked about his experience as president and founder of the Barry McGuigan Boxing Academy, which runs in partnership with colleges across the country, offering young people the opportunity to re-engage with education through boxing.
Gavin Hawkey, Sport Cardiff, Cardiff City, presented a case study on the development of Cardiff as an international centre for sport, leisure and events. John Cantwell, stadium director, Thomond Park provided an economic case study on the redevelopment of the stadium – the home of Munster Rugby.