Charlotte County enjoyed another successful year in regards to sports tourism.
During fiscal year 2015-2016, the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB was instrumental in the recruiting, managing, and/or supporting of twenty sports events that took place throughout the county, generating approximately $10 million in direct expenditures, which equates to an estimated $18 million in total economic impact for the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast.
These events also represented approximately 17,000 hotel room nights for our community. According to the National Association of Sports Commissions, estimated visitor spending associated with sports events nationwide was $9.45 billion in 2015, up from $8.3 billion in 2012. So while $18 million represents a great economic boost for our area, we are only scratching the surface of the potential benefits we can realize from the sports travel industry. Having said that, the competition is fierce. In 1992, at the inception of the NASC, there were only a dozen member sports commissions—or CVB’s—with an active sports marketing arm. That number has grown to over 700 today, with communities of every size and location entering the game.
While we are limited on what events we can host based on a number of factors, including our existing facilities, hotel inventory, and geographic location, it is our goal to maximize our share of the sports tourism pie. One way we are striving to do that is to identify a set of core events that either become annual or part of a regular rotation. Some of the annual events that take place in our destination include the Snowbird Baseball Classic, the Princess Classic Gymnastics Meet, the Charlotte Harbor Regatta, and the Florida Half Century Softball Tournament. In addition, we have been part of a rotation to host the following events every 2-3 years: SSA Florida BMX Cup Series and the AAU Fall State Gymnastics Championships. Currently, we are working on establishing a rotation to host the Sunshine State Games Track & Field Championships, which took place in Punta Gorda in June 2015. Also, not too long ago, the Bureau signed an agreement to host the Sugar Bert Boxing National Championship Qualifier every other year through 2020.
We face substantial competition for sports tourism dollars, but it’s very much worth the investment. The sports travel industry continues to grow, is recession resistant, and encompasses a wide variety of demographics.
It is also important to consider the residual impact of hosting these types of events. Frequently when we host a sporting event, many of the participants have never been to our destination and it’s this initial exposure to our little slice of paradise that inspires them to return for a future visit, recommend us to a friend, or even purchase a retirement home! As our county’s sports facilities expand and upgrade and more hotel rooms are added to our inventory, the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB will continue working hard to fill those venues and lodging facilities with athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and family members.
With the continued support and cooperation from our hospitality industry partners, we’re excited about the future opportunities and are confident the sports market will continue to be a home run for all of Charlotte County.