When it comes to sports travel, does your hotel have game?

The sports travel industry is booming.

From the San Diego Tourism Authority to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor Bureau, destination marketers understand the value of attracting sports events as well as developing sales professionals who understand the unique needs and complexities of the sports travel business. The National Association of Sports Commissions reported at its 2017 spring conference that sports travel is a $10.47-billion industry that has been increasing steadily each year, and is up 10 percent over 2016.

Hotels benefit by participating in efforts to cultivate these marketwide sports events. Besides the obvious capture of citywide demand and subsequent positive economics, there are other benefits hoteliers can gain by engaging in more sports-related events. One is learning the distinctive needs of athletes, from traveling youth leagues and high school tournaments to college conference competition and professional leagues. Each level has particular needs, cadence of service, room inventory preferences and food-and-beverage necessities. Knowledge of these nuances and communicating how your hotel’s product and staff can meet these needs may help your property create a new and profitable segment.

Nutrition needs are often considerable and specific, and dining schedules can be complicated by transportation delays, practice times at venues and even length of games, such as overtime. And no matter the level, every team and its coaches want the best advantage to win, including comfortable rooms, soundproofing for noise control, uplifting service and particular security needs.

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According to Danielle Hover, group sales manager for the Westin Buffalo (N.Y.), whose clients include a number of sports teams, communication with your operations team on site throughout the teams’ stay is paramount to ensuring sensitive and high levels of service. Hover follows her clients’ social media and alerts managers on duty if the team is coming back from a win or a loss. “Being sensitive to players’ state of mind as well as all their other needs demonstrates how The Westin Buffalo is vested in the team’s success,” Hover said.

Lauren Bosch, director of sales and marketing at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar D.C., suggests building a strong relationship with the team’s travel manager. “These professionals are on the road the same amount as the athletes, and under different pressures to deliver. So catering to their needs as well as their players and coaches goes a long way,” she said.

Advice to owners and operators from Eric Hansen, president of Distinct Valuation and Consulting Group, is to be fully engaged in what is happening in the community relative to sports events. He adds, “Hotel owners can serve as civic leaders that help grow not only the community’s pride, but individual businesses as well.”

Donna Quadri-Felitti is Marvin Ashner Director, Penn State School of Hospitality Management.

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