THE Balearics was yesterday urged to make the maximum use of its largest natural resource - the sea - if the region wants to establish a thriving sports tourism industry. On the opening day of the first meeting of the newly established Illes Balears Forum, set up to develop and promote sports tourism, the World Tourism organisation's director of marketing studies, Gustavo Huéscar, said that the Balearics should not worry too much about hosting large international nautical events, but should first ensure that it has the necessary infrastructure to cater for a thriving nautical sports tourism industry. But, more importantly, the Balearics, like all other tourist destinations, has to learn how to manage demand and make sure it privies its visitors with what they want, and that applies to all types of tourists. He stressed that the tourist industry is becomingly increasingly competitive and that more and more people are travelling. In the year 2020, 1.600 million holidays will be taken, so destinations have to be prepared to accept the blame for a decline in tourism and be prepared to recognise their mistakes and that times are changing. Huéscar added that 50 years ago, 15 holiday destinations dominated the market catering for 97 percent of global tourism, today, those 15 traditional destinations cater for just over half of the global market. More people are travelling, but there are more places to visit so destinations have to make an extra effort to attract holidaymakers. Here in the Balearics, Huéscar believes that the region can develop a lading sports tourism industry and other ways of developing sports tourism are going to be discussed over the next four days at this inaugural meeting of the forum. Last night, the director of the Tour de France Jean-Marie Leblanc and Gilberto Jordan, one of the pioneers of sports tourism on the Algarve in Portugal, were presented the Sports and Tourism Global Awards during the opening ceremony at la Lonja in Palma. The forum will also be attended by Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, member of the International Olympic Committee and former Olympian the Duke of Palma, Iñaki Urdangarín, who is the president of the Noos Institute.
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