How does sport contribute to tourism?
The URL has been copied
The URL has been copied
a lone hiker walks through the mountains
Each year, World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27 September. Sports and tourism can go hand-in-hand to achieve social and development objectives.

Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors. It allows people to experience the world’s different cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity.

The many important contributions of tourism encouraged the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to institute World Tourism Day, celebrated annually since 1980 on 27 September, to highlight the importance of tourism and its impact on our society.

Tourism and sports

According to UNWTO, tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world, while sport is one of the world’s largest social phenomenon. As a professional or leisure activity, sport often involves travel to other places, to play and compete in various destinations. Further, major sporting events, such as the Olympics and various World Cups, have become powerful tourist attractions.

Sports tourism constitutes a large part of the tourism industry, with some sources claiming that a  quarter of all tourism in the world is sports-related. Sports tourism includes not only participation in and attending sporting events, but also personal recreational activities.

Statements from the World Tourism Organisation and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have highlighted the importance of sports tourism; in 2004, the organisations committed to reinforcing their partnership and collaboration in the sports tourism domain, stating:

“Tourism and sport are interrelated and complementary… both are powerful forces for development, stimulating investment in infrastructure projects such as airports, roads, stadiums, sporting complexes and restaurants- projects that can be enjoyed by the local population as well as tourists who come to use them.”

Sports tourism and sustainable development

Tourism is an essential pillar of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goals 812, and 14. As a segment of tourism, sports tourism can also help achieve sustainable development.

At an economic level, sports tourism contributes to SDGs 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere) and 8 (promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all). Sports tourism promotes local businesses, creating demand in areas such as transportation, hotels and restaurants. Thus, local populations can avail jobs and income opportunities. Depending on the nature of the sports and experiences, local people can work as instructors and guides, who are likely to be paid more due to their special skills.

Further, sports tourism contributes to SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). Besides providing the tourists with sporting opportunities and an outlet for physical exercise, investment in sports tourism can also promote the participation of local populations in sporting activities.

Finally, sports tourism can also contribute to SDG 11 (make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Accessible sports tourism products like hand bikes provide access to sports opportunities for people with disabilities. Para-sport activities can be enjoyed by tourists and residents alike. The development of accessible sports tourism can improve accessibility in the destination city by the provision of not only sports products, but also accessible accommodation and transport. Furthermore, accessible sports tourism helps increase the understanding of people with disabilities in society.

Sports, tourism and sustainability

Sports federations, like the IOC, have realised the need for sustainable practices during mega sporting events. Thus, the IOC launched the International Federation (IF) Sustainability Project in 2016 to obtain an overview of their sustainability initiatives, identifying common topics, challenges and good practices. Building on the Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC Sustainability Strategy was developed in close cooperation with many stakeholders and partners to fundamentally shape the working practices of the IOC, the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement.

To develop synergies between the stakeholders so that sports and its facilities can be included in the local assets, it is necessary for decision-makers at all levels to understand their potential and agree to work together to set up sustainable development strategies. 

Host cities should target participants who are most likely to engage in sustainable behaviour while in the destination. This includes developing event portfolios geared towards sustainable event practices. The host city should also harness collaborative partnerships to foster social cohesion and build the capacity to increase sustainable practices.

From the design and construction of sports facilities and the way resources are managed, to valuing the natural environment and health and well-being of people, all decisions should be informed by sustainability principles. As the role and relevance of sport in today’s society continue to grow, progress can only be in cooperation and partnership with others, including the tourism industry.


Operating Team


All countries
Does not apply
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
17 - Partnership for the goals
Target Group

Related Articles

Certification Ceremony from Batch 2 of Level 1: Introduction to S4D

PSD completes the first and second batches of Level 1: Introduction to S4D

Pro Sport Development
The URL has been copied
passion led us here

Moving People deserve organisations that treat them as their first priority

Mogens Kirkeby
The URL has been copied
three young people with boxing gear

Sport for Development Coalition launches weekly drop-in webinar series

sportanddev.org Community
The URL has been copied
a conference meeting

Building communities through participatory sport for development

Kumben Aier
The URL has been copied