Sport and culture play a key role in world tourism

Do mega-events have a positive effect on tourism? It depends on the event, but they generally have a positive effect in the long term in terms of destination exposure.

Sport is probably the activity that has the most positive effect on tourism.

London, for example, saw growth of 20% in the total number of arrivals in the year following the summer Olympics. By comparison, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 attracted 541,000 tourists over July and August 2016, 157,000 more visitors than during summer 2015. And surveys suggested that 95% of visitors were considering further visits to Brazil.


The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa brought over 310,000 visitors with the primary purpose of watching the games. Some 5% of all travellers indicated their intention to visit other African nations. In 2018, the FIFA World Cup in Russia also had a positive effect. According to Russian of cials some 1.5 million tourists travelled to the event with a number of cities enjoying solid growth – for example Sochi, which welcomed 90% more tourists in summer of 2018 than on the previous year.

In Europe, cultural festivals and events are becoming true hits. The German Tourism Association estimates that 85 million people visited more than 1,500 German Christmas markets in 2017 and between 20% and 25% of all those visitors travelled from abroad.

Cultural events are a key attraction for tourists. A study conducted in 2016 for Salzburg said that the city’s famed festival was motivation for some 95% of visits there. The Lyon Festival of Light has grown over the years from a regional to an international event. Around one hundred thousand visitors visit the French city in December for the four days of the festival, coming as far as Japan or the US to discover Lyon.