Think small for sports tourism – campaigner
Speaking in today’s Guernsey Press sports pages, Mark Naftel said that if the island had a different infrastructure it could put on bigger events such as the Super League Triathlon, which Jersey hosted earlier this year.
His comments come in the wake of Jersey announcing that the event added £527,000 to its economy, attracted more than 10,000 spectators and filled an extra 3,800 additional bed nights.
Jersey States has made £250,000 available for the event between 2018 and 2022.
But Guernsey would struggle to host this event, said Mr Naftel: ‘It comes down to the volume of cyclists that the road can accommodate,’ he said, talking about how Jersey closed its seafront to allow the Super League event to take place.
And he also did not feel that there was as much support among islanders: ‘Could we close down the seafront and have a 20-mile cycle going out of Town? I don’t think Guernsey people are ready for it.
‘Even for Island Games, I don’t think there’s the will, politically or among the population of the island, to see roads closed for sport.’
The solution could be lots of smaller events, said David Piesing.
Mr Piesing set up the Sports Tourism Action Group about a year ago and he is working with well-known local sports people Garry Collins and Steve Sharman to draft a strategy document.
‘What we are trying to do is justify to government that there should be more money available for sports tourism events,’ he said.
‘Clearly Jersey is further down the road in recognising the value of sports tourism.’
However, he said that he had sensed a change locally: ‘I sense they are beginning to wake up within Visit Guernsey and Economic Development.’
He said that they did not seem to mind what the event was, so long as it brought more people to the island they would back it: ‘But it has to be based on a firm business case.
‘Deputy Charles Parkinson has brought an element of commercialism to that team,’ added Mr Piesing.
‘But my feeling is that there are events which Jersey is capable of holding which we would struggle with just in terms of scale and the number of hotel beds.’
He thought that ‘smaller, bite-sized events’ held at a particular time of year would work very well here.
‘It’s a very fertile area for an island like Guernsey which punches above its weight in all kinds of sports.’
The right calibre of events would attract competitors rather than spectators, who would pay a premium to come to the island to take part: ‘You could put on a dozen events over the course of a year,’ said Mr Piesing.
Once money was forthcoming, the organisers would be obliged to make sure things progressed, he added: ‘If we – or the arts – can secure funding from the States to make events happen that benefit GDP, then those events have to happen.’