Peru Wants You to Compete
THE SOUTH AMERICAN NATION HAS FOUND OUT IT HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO TAP INTO A MARKET SEGMENT CLOSELY TIED TO THE HOSTING OF BIG-TICKET SPORT EVENTS
In tourist terms, Peru is Machu Picchu. So are the enigmatic Nazca lines, although one cannot underestimate an exuberant gastronomic culture that, for many, ranks among the most exquisite on the face of the planet. But this South American nation, ancient cradle of the Inca civilization and blessed with an unusual coastline and dazzling landscapes in its mountains and jungles, aims at a whole lot more.
And in the midst of these aspirations to multiply its proposals, it has discovered that it has what it takes to exploit its potential within a segment of the market closely linked to the celebration of major sporting events. Today, Peru is also betting on high competition.
If a hallmark were to be sought in this new facet, it would undoubtedly be the holding of the most recent Pan American Games in Lima. Nothing was the same after that southern winter of 2019, when the main Peruvian city hosted thousands of athletes, coaches and federations from all over the Americas, thus becoming the epicenter of continental sport.
At that time, the city's infrastructure made a remarkable leap forward by adding a wide network of sports facilities, a fact that many capitals in the southern cone cannot boast today. At the same time, in the economic field, the event was taken by its organizers as a success.
Experts say that between 2016 and 2019, the preparations first and the Games later, generated a financial movement of around 5.2 billion dollars. While in these cases it can take years to recover most of the investment - or even never arrive - this time the local economy received nearly $350 million in revenue through the leisure industry, according to data from the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR).
The same institution reported that Lima welcomed more than 50,000 foreign tourists and twice as many nationals, who came from different regions of the country to enjoy the remarkable event.
To tell the truth, although the 2019 Pan-American Games in Lima stand as a reference, they have been part of a strategy that began six months earlier with the Dakar Rally and continued with the hosting of the final match of that year's Copa Libertadores between Argentina's River Plate and Brazil's Flamingo.
The famous race in extreme conditions, run entirely in the Peruvian desert, and last held on South American soil, attracted some 7,000 foreign visitors and left profits of some US$60 million in the hotel sector and related activities. Although a lesser impact was expected, similar numbers were reported in the first final of the single match of the legendary football tournament, which had the Monumental stadium in Lima as an alternative venue when the social outburst in Santiago de Chile forced the relocation of the venue.
With these experiences at hand, Peru redoubled its efforts to ensure that this market segment would be able to surpass the previous year's standards by 2020: 4.2 million tourists and revenues of US$ 5.2 billion.
The alliance between the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Mincetur) and the organizing team of the Pan American Games of Lima 2019 to attract important events that could take advantage of the infrastructure bequeathed by the continental event, was the starting point. And to make this dream come true, the Commission for the Promotion of Exports and Tourism (PromPeru) designed a broad project, in which the impulse to sports tourism stands out in order to "capture the greatest number of travelers that arrive to the country to enjoy the events of international level.
The proposal included dozens of competitions of different levels of convocation and preeminence, among them, the World Skate Lima Open, a qualifier of that discipline for the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020, and that for its category 5 appeared as one of the leaders that could attract the best skaters of the planet and generate income of between 10 and 12 million dollars, according to experts.
Also in the portfolio stood out as relevant, in terms of impact on tourism, the celebration of the World Men's Football Championship, U-17 category, as well as the process of qualifying for the World Cup Qatar 22, by the high expectations of the local games against the teams of Brazil and Argentina.
Although the uncertainty that the world is experiencing due to the transmission of the lethal coronavirus has forced plans to be postponed, Peruvian tourism authorities have confirmed that they will not abandon their intention to make sport one of the driving forces of this activity.
Their idea is that Peru will not lose the good reputation of being a successful host that has accompanied it since last year, and thus take advantage of the rapid growth that sports tourism is experiencing, as indicated in the study Key trends in sport tourism, prepared in September 2019 by the international consulting firm GlobalDATA.
BEYOND THE STADIUM
Figures from Plunkett Research Group estimate the size of the global sports industry at $1.7 trillion, a number they predict will remain high. And although there are several factors that justify these projections, many agree in highlighting, among them, the irruption of the socalled emerging sports.
The World Cup or the Olympic Games will continue to be at the forefront of interest, but examples such as the 2018 World Men's Curling Championship in Las Vegas add to these trends. In just 9 days, that event generated nearly 9 million dollars and had an attendance of more than 74,000 spectators, of which more than 75% came from abroad.
Professional video game competitions (e-sports) are on the same wavelength, such as the 2017 final of the Intel Extreme Masters, which gathered more than 175,000 spectators in Poland for two weeks.
Beyond the twenty or so level facilities left by the Pan American Games in Lima 2019, few nations like Peru have the natural resources to promote the practice and competition of extreme sports, which are enjoying increasing popularity globally.
A desert coast, a high mountain range and a lush jungle, as well as fast-flowing rivers and lagoons, are ideal places to live experiences full of adrenaline, in the practice of modalities such as mountaineering, trekking, canoeing or rafting, paragliding or sandboarding. And all this is accompanied by millenary traditions.
It is a reality that when destinations integrate their culture to the events they organize, they stand out and provide authentic local experiences that tourists appreciate. Thus, it is not surprising that events like the Half Marathon Des Sables, which has already had a couple of editions in the impressive deserts of the Ica region, have been used to strengthen the positioning of the Peruvian adventure and nature tourism offer, and with it increase the flow of visitors.