The time is ripe for a comprehensive gap analysis of the region???s abilities and level of preparedness to host international sports.

This is the view of Minister of Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who suggested that the analysis should be compared to global best practices from success stories similar to Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

She made the comments today at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, while addressing a two-day regional consultation on the development of the sports tourism sector.

Dr. Byer Suckoo told her audience: ???Among the areas for consideration is the defining of the sports tourism product, clear articulation of our national policies and legislation as it relates to sports, positioning and marketing strategies for the sports tourism product, polices on the development and optimal management of our sports infrastructure and the development of our supporting sectors.

???In other words, we still have quite some distance to travel in order to fully capitalise on the lucrative sports tourism opportunities.???

She said the symposium was not only timely, but essential, given the Caribbean???s heavy reliance on the tourism product, the changing global landscape and the competition faced from other destinations. She noted that the current economic climate had impacted the region to the extent where declines were being experienced in tourist arrivals and spending. This situation, she added, would be felt across all sectors of the countries??? economies.

???With tourism accounting for approximately 31.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in the Caribbean, and being the single largest employer of our human resources, business as usual is not an option for our survival as a region.

???In order to maintain the region???s competitive edge and re-establish our islands as formidable players in the global tourism market, we have to aggressively pursue viable strategies. The strategy of amalgamating our naturally beautiful environments, sports and our tourism into a sports tourism product affords us such an option,??? the Sports Minister asserted.

She told the gathering that the region???s sports legacy was of utmost importance, because it was the bedrock upon which they could build their intended product. According to her, the eyes of the sports world were directed towards the Caribbean because the islands were hosting various sporting events annually. ???Moreover, the international sporting bodies have been gaining increasing confidence in the region???s ability to host international events,??? she declared.

Dr. Byer Suckoo stressed that the hosting of sports events would promote a high level of professionalism and competitiveness at the national and regional levels.

She reiterated that Barbados had made a determined effort to host world-class events and pointed out that the ICC World Twenty20 Cricket Championships, the AIBA Women???s World Boxing Championships and the Segway Polo World Cup Championships would be held here in 2010.??

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