The Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau last week reported a 12.2 percent increase in tourism sales tax revenues for July, the most recent month with figures. Part of that increase came from sports events, which had an economic impact of $10 million in fiscal 2009.
Neal McCoy, director of sports development for the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau, answered these questions last week from business reporter Carlie Kollath.
Q: How did the sports development effort start in Tupelo and what does it include?
A: We trace our beginnings back to the Tupelo Official Host Organization as they lured the Croatian Olympic team to Tupelo to train for the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.
They saw the opportunities ahead of them and in ’99 Gary Wheat started the program.
What we essentially do is make Tupelo a viable and attractive sports destination. Anything sports related in Tupelo, we want to be a part of it. We do everything from setting up hotel blocks to getting the word out to the press to attracting the names and the events.
This weekend we had the Mississippi Super Seniors State Tennis Tournament. Next weekend, we’ll have the Hill Country Fall Baseball Championship then a soccer tournament the weekend after that.
It’s unusual to have that many activities back to back in the fall. It’s indicative of the activities we are adding to offset other areas in the economy.
Q: What’s the difference between sports and sports tourism?
A: Sports tourism is all about heads and beds. It’s all about making sure we get people here and get them to stay overnight. What we focus on and spend our efforts on are baseball, softball and soccer tournaments.
Q: Sports tourism increased its economic impact in 2009, while other areas, such as conventions and weddings, lost ground. Why do you think that is?
A: People lately have been asking if the sports travel industry is recession-proof. The question is yes and no. No because sponsorship may be down and actual participation may be down. Yes because your son and daughter are only going to be 11 or 12 once. They still want to play with their friends.
It might affect their spending trends and they might pick a more economic hotel, but they are still going to come and participate in the sporting events.
NEMS Daily Journal