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HOW THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO BIRMINGHAM’S SPORTS TOURISM SECTOR

The 2022 Commonwealth Games had a major impact on sports tourism in the British city of Birmingham.

Sports tourism is perhaps one of the most dynamic sectors in travel and tourism, with huge potential for host cities and countries. The city of Birmingham, in the UK, is a great example of said potential, as the recent host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Tourism in Birmingham expected to surge over summer

The 2022 Commonwealth Games was reportedly one of the most successful games in history, with over 1.5 million tickets being sold. The city of Birmingham is now expected to receive a large influx of tourists in the remainder of summer.

“I can categorically say this will be the busiest August that Birmingham has ever enjoyed”, said Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company, in an interview with the media.

“You just have to see the throngs of people in the streets. We were forecasting about 85% hotel occupancy, but talking to some hotel managers it’s nearer 95% so we’re pretty much full.”

Business leaders in Birmingham are reportedly driven to use the momentum of the event to promote the city for future events. Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, recently talked of Birmingham’s potential as an Olympic host city.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games had a major impact on sports tourism in the British midlands city. (Photo: Bearas/CC BY-SA 4.0)
The 2022 Commonwealth Games had a major impact on sports tourism in the British midlands city. (Photo: Bearas/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Commonwealth Games to be catalyst for investment in Birmingham and surrounding areas

The Commonwealth Games has been described as the biggest multi-sport competition held in England since the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games, with big numbers to back it up. Reportedly two billion viewers watched the games through broadcast media, 2.5 million participants were involved in surrounding events in Birmingham, while over one million visitors attended the games.

“Right now, our job is to make sure that we do right by this region, by making the best of what people have seen and done in Birmingham so that this place is on the map,” said Tricia Warwick, VisitBritain’s director for APMEA & North Asia, in a quote obtained by Travel Weekly.

“At the moment, it’s an afterthought. They [tourists] go to London, they go to Manchester, they go to Scotland, they go to the Lake District because these are the well-known, promoted places.”

Therefore, VisitBritain has formed a partnership with the West Midlands Growth Company to implement a legacy programme for Birmingham and the surrounding areas, which entails the construction of new sporting stadiums as well as regeneration projects.

“So the platform of the game is a global spotlight; two billion people over 11 days will have seen something of Birmingham […] We needed this. Not just in this city or in the West Midlands, but in the country. We need something that brings people together, something they can enjoy”, Rami said.

The numbers behind sports tourism in the UK

The potential of sports tourism, especially in the United Kingdom, is backed up by numbers and revenue, as well as intangible benefits. The “nation brand” of the UK was boosted following the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games, an example of the latter point.

It has been reported that visitors to the UK who come to watch sport apparently stay longer and spend more than the average tourist in the UK. Sports-interested travellers spend an average of £1,000 (approx. €1,180), and stay for 11 nights compared to eight.

Business and Tourism Programme to leverage Birmingham’s profile

A Business and Tourism Programme has been established to leverage the profile generated by the Games to boost Birmingham’s global reputation as a leading destination for tourism, trade, and investment.

The Programme is fully integrated with the recent event, and is “designed to be part of our economic recovery and will supercharge an uplift in the tourism, trade, and investment sectors, supporting economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic”, as put in a public statement.

“The programme will help to drive long-term economic benefits for a wide range of businesses and communities across the region and the UK”.

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