The leading lights in sport tourism nationally and in Europe were recognised for their impact on the fast growing sector as the inaugural European Sport Tourism Awards were handed out in King Johns Castle. Representatives from organisations, locations and venues from across Ireland and Europe gathered as 15 category awards were handed out. BDO were proud business advisors to the event and sponsored the ‘National Sport Tourism Event of the Year’ which went to ‘Giro d’Italia Big Start Belfast’.
The awards were one of the high points of the two-day Shannon Airport European Sport Tourism Summit in Limerick – an annual think-tank on the industry annually that was addressed by some of the world’s leading experts on sport tourism,, including Commonwealth Games CEO David Grevemberg, Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills, Director of Major Events and International Relations at UK Sport Simon Morton and Paul Smith, Head of City Delivery for England 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The shortlisted entrants comprised towns, cities, events and venues from Ireland and across Europe already becoming synonymous with the sector, which is growing at a rate of 14% per annum globally compared to the 5% growth of the wider tourism industry.
The awards delivered a proud moment for the MTB Park in Ballyoura, Co. Limerick, which last year staged the European Mountain Bike Championships, as it took the honours in one of the top categories, the European Sport Tourism Venue of the year.
Westport, Co. Mayo claimed the honours in another leading category as it was chosen as the European Sport Tourism Town, with the city award going to London as it beat Limerick, Belfast and Copenhagen to the title.
Other Irish winners were Killary Gaelforce adventure race in the National Sport Tourism Innovation Award; Vodafone Ireland in the Sport Tourism Sponsorship of the Year award for its sponsorship of Triathlon Ireland and the Tour de Burren in the Regional Sport Tourism Event of the Year.
Leitrim Tourism claimed the Lakelands & Waterways Sport Tourism category and Co. Mayo also scored again in the National Sport Tourism Destination Marketing Award with the Great Western Greenway taking the honours there.
One of the most competitive categories was the Charity Sport Tourism Event Award, which went to Cycle Against Suicide, beating off opposition from the likes of Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle and Pink Ribbon Walks.
Speaking at the event, Rose Hynes, Chairman of sponsors Shannon Group, said that the awards and the European Sport Tourism Summit held over Thursday and Friday at Thomond Park, Limerick had illustrated the enormous potential of the industry.
“Sport Tourism is the fastest growing sector in tourism, growing at a rate of 14% per annum compared to 5% for the wider sector. That’s rapid growth and in a €450billion global market, it amounts to a huge opportunity for Ireland.
“The clear message from the Summit is that Ireland is tailor made for capitalizing on this market in that we have the passion for sport and the infrastructure as well. However, we still have some way to go in terms of getting all the elements in place to capitalise on this, not least around the area of marketing and bidding. The truth is we just have to bridge that gap because the prize is too big to miss out on.”
Congratulating the winners, judge and Director of W2 Consulting, organisers of the awards, said that the inaugural awards have set a high standards for the years ahead.
“When you look at the winners and, indeed, all those shortlisted, you get a real sense of the enthusiasm and innovation that’s bubbling over the industry here and abroad. The exciting thing is we are really only starting the journey. If anything the Summit and Awards have galvanised all involved and given us a real sense that there is huge capacity for Ireland in this sector and everyone seems determined to go for it,” he said.
The winners of the inaugural Shannon Group European Sport Tourism Awards were:
European Sport Tourism City 2016 – London
European Sport Tourism Town 2016 – Westport
European Sport Tourism Venue – MTB Park Ballyhoura
European Sport Tourism Innovation Award –Tour de Yorkshire
National Sport Tourism Innovation Award –Killary Gaelforce
Sport Tourism Educational Institute of the Year Award – University of Brighton
European Sport Tourism Destination Marketing Award – Event Scotland
National Sport Tourism Destination Marketing Award – Great Western Greenway
Sport Tourism Digital Marketing Award – IAAF World Half Marathon Championship 2014
Sport Tourism Sponsorship of the Year Award – Vodafone – Triathlon Ireland
European Sport Tourism Event of the Year – Prudential RideLondon
National Sport Tourism Event of the Year – Giro d’Italia Big Start Belfast
Regional Sport Tourism Event of the Year – Tour de Burren
Lakelands & Waterways Sport Tourism Innovation Award – Leitrim Tourism
Charity Sport Tourism Event Award – Cycle Against Suicide
Picture caption; Eddie Rowan, Tourism Northern Ireland / Giro Italia Big Start Belfast, is presented with the National Sport Tourism Event of the Year award by Ger Holliday BDO, Limerick. European Sports Tourism Awards 2015. King John’s Castle, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene/Fusionshooters