Boost for Jamaica's sport tourism
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Sport, an agency formed to explore commercial opportunities provided by sports tourism, was launched yesterday at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston.
The agency that will also seek to leverage brand Jamaica and sporting events held locally and internationally to ensure that the country maximises on its publicity, public relations, as well as marketing and promotional opportunities, will be headed by businessman and corporate executive Christopher Dehring.
For the past two years, Dehring headed the Sports Tourism Implementation Committee (STIC), which was established to explore commercial opportunities provided by sports tourism. That committee has now been transformed into Jamaica Sport.
Dr Wykeham McNeil, the minister of tourism and entertainment, outlined yesterday that Jamaica Sport will focus on four key areas.
"It will work in tandem with the National Council on Sport and will develop mechanisms to bid on or host strategically important sport events," the minister said. "They will develop a methodology and system to identify and select indigenous sports events to be endorsed and facilitated by Jamaica Sport, with the aim of boosting tourist arrivals and raising the stature of Jamaican athletes and Jamaica as a major sport destination in the region."
Jamaica Sport, he said, will also be tasked with the responsibility of coordinating with the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica Tourist Board in developing an economic model to assess sport events. The agency will also partner with INSPORT to develop athletes and nurture world-class talent as an important component of an Athlete Ambassador-type programme that capitalises on brand Jamaica, as well as raise the public relations profile of elite athletes for the country's economic benefit.
For the agency to realise the level of success that will see the country reaping significant financial rewards, Jamaica will have to find ways to improve its present sports infrastructure.
Minister with responsibility for Sports in the Office of the Prime Minister Natalie Neita Headley revealed that progress is being made in that regard.
Jamaica, she said, is not yet ready to offer a recurring schedule of big international events, but with careful planning and with the Jamaica Sport team, visitors will come to Jamaica for things that Jamaica is proud of, among them its sport. "But we have some things that we must do here to ensure that we can accommodate those visitors when they come. We must develop and utilise as best we can the existing facilities we now have," she said as she encouraged private investors to get onboard. "We have a lovely national stadium, but it needs some upgrading, it needs to be expanded, and we need to go one level up. I am throwing that out because there are investors who need to invest in sport; it's big business. So I am inviting those investors on board."
She mentioned other facilities across the island that can be improved upon and exploited in the name of sports tourism.