SBD/Issue 72/Sports & Society

Sports Travel Industry Seeing Growth Despite Tough Economy

JetBlue, MLS Club Real Salt Lake Have Deal
For Plane With Team's Logos, Colors
Sports travel "is scoring big," and some aspects "have even been recession-proof, growing while so many other travel categories slump," according to Scott McCartney of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Airlines are “increasingly catering to sports fans,” and some carriers, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, “have added special flights for some championship games.” Researchers estimate that 10-15% of fans at regular-season pro sports events are visitors from out of town, and 27% of all travel expenditures are trips that involve some sports. Lisa Delpy Neirotti, associate professor of tourism and sport management at George Washington Univ.’s business school, estimates sports travel to be a $182B a year business. While corporations have cut back this year on many of their sports-travel promotions, “trips by individual fans continue to sell briskly.” Neirotti said that to “cash in on the sports-travel boom, some 300 different U.S. cities have at least one person working for the local government or convention bureau dedicated to sports events.” Meanwhile, airlines continue to try and add flights catering to sports fans. When the Univ. of Texas and the Univ. of Alabama were named to play in the BCS title game in Pasadena, “several carriers quickly announced special flights from the universities' home states” to L.A. Southwest Airlines “has experimented with sports packages by putting together special trips for a few boxing matches in Las Vegas that included tickets to the fights.” Southwest Airlines Dir of National Strategic Partnerships Andy Allmann: "The demographics of those who go to sporting events or watch sports mirror closely our most frequent fliers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/24).

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