Comment: Sports tourism to the US can kick off fandom for our country

Brand USA’s Staci Mellman reveals how the marketing organisation plans to capitalise on a jam-packed calendar of events

Last year we were optimistic and this year we’re celebratory. Why? There are a number of reasons, but the big one is that it’s the summer of sport.

Euro 2024 is well underway across Germany and Copa America is being played in 14 cities across the USA. The 2024 ICC Men’s World Cup, meanwhile, was co-hosted by the West Indies and the United States, with matches being held in Florida, New York and Texas. And yes, the USA does have a cricket team! This year also marks the 30th Summer Olympics in Paris and will see four sports make their debuts: breaking – an urban dance style that started in 1970s New York and debuted at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games – surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing. I think we can all agree it’s going to be an extraordinary summer.

At Brand USA, we see that sport is an increasingly big motivator for travel and we recognise its significant economic impact. You only need to look at Uefa 2024 as an example: played over the course of a month, the tournament is expected to bring Germany an additional 600,000 international visitors, 1.5 million more overnight stays and an extra €1 billion in revenue. Similarly, the Olympics is expected to give a huge economic boost to France. According to the Paris Tourism Office, an estimated €2.6 billion will be spent by tourists travelling to the capital during the Games, with or without tickets.

Major events

The USA will be hosting a number of major sports tournaments in the next five years, including the Fifa World Cup 2026 across 11 host cities and the Olympic Games in LA in 2028. An estimated five million international fans are expected to travel to the US, Mexico and Canada for the World Cup and it is expected to generate more than $5 billion in short‑term economic activity to the region. The global media exposure will undoubtedly boost long‑term tourism by raising the profile of the host cities, especially the lesser-known destinations.

The USA will be hosting the Fifa World Cup in 2025 across 11 host cities and the Olympic Games in LA in 2028

Sports tourism is the perfect gateway to showcase the diversity of experiences to be enjoyed across the country. Fans may come to Kansas City, Boston or Seattle to support their team, but this is also the perfect chance to indulge in culinary trails across the southern states, to road-trip through small coastal towns of the East Coast for a taste of Americana and to embrace the breathtaking views of the great outdoors in the Pacific Northwest. Once they step into the US to cheer for their sport, we are confident that their fandom for the USA will continue to grow.

US connectivity

Travellers’ desire to see more of the US is being fuelled by greater air connectivity. Aer Lingus, JetBlue and Delta all launched flights this year to Denver, Boston, New York City, Las Vegas and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. There has also been an increase in new routes from regional hubs, with three weekly flights from Manchester to New York and Las Vegas, and daily flights from Edinburgh to New York with JetBlue. With more than 120 routes available from the UK and Ireland, it has never been easier to travel to the USA.

We are also working to increase the confidence of agents to sell all parts of the USA, so this September will see the return of the UK & Ireland MegaFam. Sixty agents will experience a variety of itineraries across multiple states, providing valuable first-hand destination knowledge alongside key training on how to maximise our newly relaunched Discovery Programme.

Sports and travel have much in common: a sense of excitement and anticipation, an element of surprise and discovery, and the opportunity to be the best version of ourselves. With travel, we step out of our comfort zones to discover diverse communities and cultures, see different perspectives and become open to other ways of life. Both sports and travel promise enriching experiences and we want to continue working with you to bring these experiences to life.

The UK remains the number-one overseas market for the USA and in 2024, we are projecting 4.5 million arrivals from the UK. These figures simply would not be possible without the incredible work of the UK and Irish trade. Thank you. Happy Fourth of July, and here’s to a victorious summer!

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