PHOTO: Agents specializing in sports are responding to a resounding demand in this particular niche. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
More than 71,000 people were in the stands for this February’s Super Bowl. However, when you include the players, coaches, staff and performers, there were probably almost 80,000 people in the building, if not more.
Making travel accommodations for this many people takes a special skill set. Not only do travel agents need to get the players and their luggage to the destination, but what about the equipment and other incidentals?
Just ask Richard Bexon, Chief Operating Officer of the Namu Travel Group in Costa Rica. This spring will be the first-ever Amateur Tour de France-sponsored event in Costa Rica, and Bexon’s company is responsible for the travel arrangements. More than 3,000 riders from all over the world will compete.
Add in the families of the competitors, coaches and spectators, and it comes with its own set of challenges.
“Making sure that the accommodations are near the start line is always important,” said Bexon. “Most events will start early in the morning, so getting up at 4 AM, then taking 30 to 60 minutes to travel to the event is not exactly desirable. We try to place athletes within a five-minute walk of the start line.”
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In addition, there’s a special concern of bike storage.
“If you are traveling with a bike, it will travel in a hard case bike box and these are bigger than regular suitcases, so you need to make sure either the room is large enough or the hotel has secured storage,” said Bexon. “Some of these bikes are worth over $10,000.”
While the competitors are cycling, Bexon has organized trips for family and friends coming.
“The idea is for the person competing to not have to worry about their friends and family and to know they are occupied,” he said. “We also organize trips after the event to see the country. You never know what they are going to need (ice baths, sports massages, etc.), so make sure you have a big contact list and are there to be their personal concierge.”
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There is a multitude of challenges when working with sports travel, including requiring the transportation of participants, their equipment, spectators and support from the closest airport said Deepak Patel, President of Premium Plus Sports, The Athlete Travel Company.
“Obstacles include accommodations that are not up to par, access to medical care, chiropractors, bike/equipment mechanics, and inability to communicate in the local language. For optimum result, event organizers and tourism entity work together to address all the issues and how to deliver a good experience for sustainability.”
Another obstacle is higher demand vs. supply.
“Sometimes, there are more people than available supply of rooms, buses and airplane seats,” Patel said. “PPS provides a comprehensive travel program focused on participants, their family and friends. We identify activities by non-participants that make them part of the event. We know what an athlete needs during event week. We have been working with athletes since 1986 and have experienced all the obstacles and pitfalls over the years.”