Travel Agent Profile: Jay Smith is A Sports Junkie's VIP
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Every day, sports fans make travel plans to see their favorite team in action, whether it’s to watch the Syracuse Orange head to the final four of the NCAA championships or to root on the Denver Broncos at the Super Bowl. According to the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC), the industry’s trade association, there were 25 million sports visitors in 2014. These tourists engage in many different forms of individual and team travel, from professional, collegiate and scholastic to outdoor activities, like climbing and scuba diving, and nostalgia trips to sports halls of fame, fantasy camps and famous sports venues.
READ MORE: 5 Great Sports Worth an Overseas Trip
Jay Smith of Sports Travel and Tours in Hatfield, Massachusetts, specializes in flexible independent travel packages (FITs) and pre-packaged tour programs for individuals and groups. For example, travelers can choose a weekend package to watch Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. as they are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Or travelers can head down to Cuba now that the restrictions have lifted a bit with a one-week Cuba Baseball Experience that takes place in November. There are also packages for fans of other sports including hockey, basketball, football and racing.
“People either enjoy a specific sport or want to see their favorite team(s) on the road,” he said. “Major events, like the NCAA Final Four, Super Bowl and Kentucky Derby are somewhat fan-based too, but are bucket list events that sports fans want to a?ttend. Sports travel isn't necessarily a growing trend, but those that are in this niche have been so for a long time.”
Smith said that sports travel isn’t necessarily a growing trend because of ticket availability to major events. “Many local tour operators? in their own areas offer some sports day trips,” he said. “Even just going to a baseball or football game, a group tour operator has to buy upfront 50 tickets to fill a bus at, say, $50 a ticket or more at the hope they fill up the trip. Many tour operators are not willing to lay out the money and not be guaranteed to sell the package, so they back off.”
For those sports fans that are booking a trip for the first time, Smith cannot be too detailed regarding pointers. “There are so many variables … that it’s tough to be specific on advice,” he said. And indeed, there is a plethora of options out there in the general categories of day trip, multi-day trip, major event or a smaller event. But Smith was assertive with the recommendation “that travelers book with a professional like us because if you have any problems on the road, or if someone needs support, we are here 24/7.”
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NASC also states that many cities have realized sports tourism is a specialty and have created sports commissions or sports authorities staffed by experts who understand these special needs. The association said that of the 110 sports commissions, about 20 are affiliated with a destination marketing organization (DMO). The other 90 markets have both: a DMO and a sports commission.
So newcomers and veterans of this type of travel can rest easy, the experts have your back.
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