Conference Online
Kavaljit Randhawa

Kavaljit Randhawa
Academic, Griffith University

Kaval is a finalising her PhD at Griffith University. Her thesis title is 'The Role of Sport Events in Spectator Sponsor/Brand Attitudes - A Case Study of the Quiksilver Pro'. Her interest in the surf industry stemmed from having worked in Sales Planning at Billabong.

Presentation Title: Surf Event Tourism: Bank Breaker or Money Maker? Exploring the Demographic Profile of Surf Event Attendees
Presentation Day: Tuesday 14th March
Presentation Time: 11.55am - 12.15pm

The concept of travelling to participate in or watch sporting events has existed since 776 BC when the Ancient Olympic Games or Olympic Festival as it was known then, attracted hundreds and thousands of visitors from around the world (Swaddling, 1980). In more recent decades, the desire for tourists to watch or participate in a range of sporting activities and events while travelling for leisure or business has increased significantly (Brown & Stahura, 2014; Butler, 2006; Gibson, 1998; Green & Chalip, 1998; Hinch & Higham, 2001; Pennington-Gray & Holdnak, 2002; Ritchie & Adair, 2002; Standeven & De Knop, 1999). The popularity of this form of travel can be explained by changing social attitudes, the importance placed on health and fitness, the use of sports events by cities or regions to attract visitors, the numerous renowned attractions and venues associated with sports and technological advances such as television and web broadcasting (Gibson, 1998; Higham, 2005; Standeven, 1998). It has been observed over the years that tourists’ attitudes and motivations for travel are changing as demonstrated by the development of new forms of special interest tourism including surf tourism. Surfing and travelling are activities well suited to each other (Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003a). The quest of the ‘perfect’ wave is a passion many surfers share and they are keen to travel to discover these new waves (Ponting & O'Brien, 2014). Surf tourism does not only include active surfers who participate in the sport but also includes spectators and travel companions (Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003b) who travel to engage in surf related activities including surf events. There are a few studies that discuss the importance of surf tourism, predominantly in the Indo-Pacific region and Central America (Buckley, 2002a, 2002b; Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003b; Martin & Assenov, 2012; O'Brien & Ponting, 2013). Other research in the area has been conducted on coastal management, sustainability and impact on host communities (Lazarow, 2007; O'Brien, 2007; Ponting, 2009; Ponting & O'Brien, 2014; Towner, 2016a; Towner & Orams, 2016). Moreover, only a few studies of the surf tourism market and travel behaviour exists (Barbieri, Henderson, & Santos, 2014; Barbieri & Sotomayor, 2013; Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003a; Raybould & Lazarow, 2009; Sotomayor & Barbieri, 2016; Towner, 2016b). However, it is 2 estimated that over 2.5 million Australians and 3.5 million Americans are reported to surf on a regular basis (Lazarow, Miller, & Blackwell, 2007) and up to 35 million participants worldwide (O’Brien & Eddie, 2013). Therefore with the growing population of surfers worldwide, the field of surf tourism should not be neglected. Aside from recreational surf tourists, surfing events generate significant tourism spending in regions. State governments often recognise the importance of these events to regional economies and frequently provide funds to support major surfing events (AEC, 2009). However, there has been limited scholarly efforts to better understand this market segment (spectators to surfing events), hence, it is an objective of this study to determine the profile of surf event attendees. Data was collected at the 2012 Quiksilver Pro event on the Gold Coast, adopting a quantitative research design. Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect demographic information from the spectators (N = 974). Results from this study revealed that the demographic profile of surf event spectators of the 2012 Quiksilver Pro is gender equal, highly educated, medium-high annual income, average age of 40 years and from the Gold Coast. They are also interested in surfing and had prior experience attending the event and attended the event with their friends or family. Although these results are specific to the 2012 Quiksilver Pro event, they share a commonality with the profile of surf tourists in previous studies in terms of age and income (Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003a; Sotomayor & Barbieri, 2016). This suggests that surfing is sport that can generate significant economic impacts on the region as well as for sponsoring brands. Further exploration into the role sport events can play in creating positive attitudes towards a sponsor’s brand and its impact on spectators’ purchasing decisions will be undertaken.