BANGKOK, 19 September 2017: After 19 years, Malaysia farewells the Formula 1 series later this month, while neighbour Singapore has signed a new contract to keep its famous F1 night race roaring for another five years.
Hosting mega sports events are the Holy Grail for nations keen to create awareness and boost tourism earnings.
Malaysia lowered the curtain on its F1 Grand Prix claiming it was no longer cost effective. Singapore after several rounds of negotiations secured a financial package that should give it bottom-line benefits for the next five year.
Thailand has enjoyed a degree of success attracting mega sports events, the most notable being a contract to host Motor GP at Buriram’s race circuit. The motorcycle race series will visit Thailand annually for four years.
There is even talk of Thailand teaming up with Malaysia and Singapore to host the World Cup one day. Of course, it is just talk and the earliest dates would probably in the far distant 2030s.
But there is no doubt Southeast Nations will ultimately enjoy their day in the sun hosting some of the world’s biggest sports events. Who knows the Olympics could one day be hosted in Indonesia the largest nation in ASEAN?
We all smiled when the Minister of Tourism and Sports suggested Thailand would host the Tour de France one day soon. It was one of those moments when a tourism leader gets carried away with a storyline that soars like a firework to be lost in a dark sky.
But the minister was spot on to think big for the country’s sports and tourism industries. There is no doubt that efforts to draw the world’s top sports events will ultimately pay off.
Yet, there is a tendency to forget the sports that are already part of the country’s fabric and DNA.
Boxing for one deserves far more attention as does golf, probably the most popular sport in the land. Triathlons and marathons draw thousands of participants, whenever they are organised.
Centara Hotels and Resorts invests heavily on sponsoring an annual masters golf tournament in Hua Hin, while Phuket Lagona hosts international triathlon and marathon races.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports should encourage airlines, tourism companies and hotel groups to expand their influence and investment in sports tourism, through sponsorship. But there must be incentives. The Minister should lobby for tax rebates to encourage travel-related corporations to support sports events that could attract international participation. There are tax rebates for domestic tourists in place this year. The next round of rebates should focus on sports sponsorship targeting tourism industry players.
For the ministry, it should now be a priority to invest in an official “sports tourism” website in Thai and English that captures a comprehensive calendar and promotes events upfront.
Unlike other ministries, the MOTS must present its messages and information on events in numerous languages, rather than just in Thai. It tends to believe that the job is done if it presents its message to the domestic market. But if the objective is to boost high spend tourism then events must tap international audiences months in advance in a language they can read.