Rob Slawson of Destination Sport Travel on sustainability in sports tourism and global expansion

The global sports tourism market was valued at USD 587.87 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.5% from 2023 to 2030. The Playknox spoke with Rob Slawson, Managing Director – Destination Sport Travel & to know the current sports tourism trends, challenges and marketing strategy.


Tell us about Destination Sport Travel.


We deliver team travel for the likes of Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham and that involves everything from taking the first team to play games to the ladies’ team and U-9 teams. We work with 30+ professional teams across multiple sports like Rugby Union, cricket, netball, and football among others. We also deliver corporate travel for club staff and executives. Destination Sport Travel group has 5 businesses – which is our B2C fan experience business, we have European Destination Management Business, we have Destination Sport Experiences and a sports development tour business called Inspire Sport.


Tell us about the renewed partnership with Saracens Rugby.


We have been associated with Saracens for several years now. We take care of effectively all things travel (by coach, air, train etc.) for them and we sort out their hotel accommodations. The renewal also includes the Saracens Netball team as well so we look after that holistically as well. We also know that Saracens supporters engage greatly with our market-leading fan travel offering so we look forward to seeing a number of the club’s fans in France to support their country at this year’s Rugby World Cup, plus other huge sporting events within the calendar.


The challenges of operating in the sports tourism industry.


If we were to look back, Covid had a disastrous global impact on the travel industry and sports was shut down. The major part of our group is fan travel and fan experiences and since fans weren’t allowed, it adversely impacted our business. However, players and management still needed to travel so there was a role for us to play. Since the travel itself changed and space was to be maintained, we had to adapt to the complexities and legalities of the pandemic. Working in the sports tourism industry means that one must be prepared for such unseen and unpredictable situations and we need to proactively work on solutions for fans and players alike.


Is the sports tourism industry back to pre-pandemic level?


Yes, we are back to pre-pandemic levels. There is a great demand for tourism and especially sports tourism because people have been waiting to get to watch LIVE matches. We have seen the same across all our product ranges. Sports is an emotive subject anyways.




What are the current trends in the sports tourism industry?


Currently, the most prominent trend is sustainability. People are a lot more conscious about how to travel and whether they are doing the right thing from a sustainability perspective. We are committed to figuring out how we can shape and improve that experience for them. We also want to provide an opportunity to fans to help them understand the impact and what they can do to help the environment. We have a collaboration with “trees to travel” and this is just one example.


What other partnerships are you are working on?


We are to reveal a number of partnerships in the UK across multiple sports soon. You will see us go deeper into football and Rugby Union. We announced our partnership with British Cycling as well a few weeks ago. We will soon be expanding further globally. We already have a presence in North America, China, across Europe and we are doing some interesting stuff in Australia and New Zealand. We are market leaders across 5 divisions in the UK and our strategy is to take this global.


What is the marketing strategy for Destination Sport Travel?


We are quite a silent partner with our clubs because it is more about relationships and service delivery for us. We don’t really shout about our brand as we are working externally. There are people who have moved clubs and organisations and have taken us with them because of our specialty in sports travel. However, when it comes to consumer business Sportsbreak, we are on a huge branding and marketing drive as it is a very much consumer-facing business.


We need to build brand recognition and brand trust there and we have got a fantastic partnership with Manchester United for example. We are leveraging inventory from that partnership to grow the brand and create some loyalty and it is different from something like Destination Sport Travel which is more about deliverables and developing deep relations and trusts with the partners.

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