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BTA backs growth of polo

Thursday 04, March-2004

As part of efforts to diversify and enhance Barbados’ sports tourism programme, the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) has been supporting the growth of polo on the island.

Widely played in the major source markets of the United Kingdom and the United States, the sport is regarded by tourism marketers as a good fit with Barbados’ efforts to tap into the high-end of the sports tourism market.

Along with being a major sponsor of the new Barbados Open International Polo tournament, which will be played next week (March 7-14) for the second year running, the BTA has been supportive of other competitions and tours by foreign teams.

The recent addition of new fields of international standard at Waterhall (St James) and Clifton (St Thomas) has already stimulated greater activity in the sport and Barbados has been attracting the attention of more teams and world-rated players.

Some of the biggest crowds ever assembled for polo matches on the island were brought out for the inaugural 2003 Barbados Open International and the momentum appeared to have been sustained this year.

Just last weekend, matches between local teams and the touring Chesire Club of England brought out hundreds of spectators.

Scores of visitors – some members from the Chesire touring party and others from west coast hotels and villas – joined locals to enjoy a high standard of play among teams that featured Barbadian players and several rated international players.

Last month, an International Polo Challenge tournament was also staged and following the Chesire tour, a Barbados team is to make a reciprocal tour of England this summer.

Major sponsors, sensing the opportunity to expose their products to a captive niche, have also been giving critical support to the sport.

Names such as Colombian Emeralds, Cartier, Peugeot, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Cockspur Rum, Courtesy Garage, Mango Bay Hotel, Schooner Bay and Evian water have been associated with polo in Barbados.

BTA President Oliver Jordan said the Authority was happy to be associated with such a sport which is popular in major source markets and which has given a new dimension to the marketing of the local sports tourism product.

Barbados as a tourist destination has been marketing itself to players and spectators within the affluent polo community in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. The sport is also big in South American countries such as Argentina and Chile.

Following the successful staging of the inaugural Barbados Open Polo tournament, a new management company, called Polo Barbados, was created to better manage the sport on the island.

According to Bruce Bayley of Polo Barbados, polo offers high entertainment value and there were great benefits in promoting Barbados as a polo and holiday destination.

“It has wide appeal for both visitors who are familiar with the game and also for those who have never even seen it before. There are also many players who come to Barbados to play each season as part of a touring team like Cheshire or as individuals.”

“Many players come each season on polo holidays organised at Clifton and Waterhall and due to the increased recognition we have received as a international polo destination, in large part by features in the most prominent international magazines, the interest in polo here is building rapidly,” said Bayley.

Bayley also said that efforts were on to develop another field at Lion Castle, St Thomas, by next season with a five-year plan of having six fields of international standard to cater to both visiting players and a growing local demand.

The BTA’s manager for sports tourism, Steve Edwards, said the sport was a good fit with Barbados’ high-end marketing efforts and like golf was a potentially lucrative niche. Edwards said he hoped that in future years, the Barbados Open would move to a higher goal-handicap competition to bring it on par with major international tournaments like the US Open and the British Open.

In recent years, Barbados has been taking a fresh look at the sports-tourism niche as part of efforts to further maximise earnings from the tourism industry.

Sports tourism has been formally embraced under the product-club concept of the new National Marketing Committee and a number of projects are taking shape to boost the programme. A range of international events, that attract thousands, are already staged annually on the local sports-tourism callendar.

These include international and regional cricket, events in golf, surfing, hockey, swimming, tennis, windsurfing, basketball, soccer, darts, motorsport, dominoes, volleyball and bridge.

Compliments of the Nation News


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