Florida Claims Top Spot in Sports Tourism Impact: Top 10 States for Most Economic Impact by Sports Tourism Unveiled

Florida is the leading state in the United States sports tourism economy, which was revealed by the Sports ETA (Events & Tourism Association) 2023 State of the Industry Report. Sports ETA, which is the trade association for the sports events and tourism industry, released its highly anticipated annual State of the Industry Report during the Sports ETA Symposium in Portland. The report underscores the strength of the sports tourism sector in the United States, showcasing a direct spending impact of $52.2 billion, which generated a total economic impact of $128 billion in 2023. This monumental contribution supported 757,600 full-time and part-time jobs and contributed $20.1 billion in taxes to various sectors of the economy. The number of sports travelers in America established a new high-water mark of 204.9 million in 2023. The sports tourism industry continued to grow in 2023, increasing by 7% over sports traveler volume in 2022. The association’s previous State on the Industry report was released in 2022 to benchmark 2021, and concluded that U.S. sports-related travelers, event organizers, and venues spent a total of $91.8 billion.

The study was conducted by Tourism Economics, with support from Northstar Meetings Group, the leading multi-platform brand for dedicated meeting and business planners and sports event organizers, and the presenting sponsor of the association’s “Annual State of the Industry” research report.

The analysis draws on a variety of data sources to quantify sports tourism, which includes adult and youth amateur sports events and collegiate tournaments. The economic impact analyses conducted within the report exclude professional sports and collegiate regular season games.

The following data sources to measure sports tourism in the United States included:

  • Sports ETA: destination membership survey data
  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics: U.S. domestic average itinerary fares
  • Travel Association: domestic travel data
  • STR: lodging data
  • Sports attendance data
  • Longwoods International: traveler survey data, including spending and visitor profile characteristics for sports tourism nationwide
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics: employment and wage data, by industry

Key Highlights from the 2023 Sports ETA State of the Industry Report include:

Sports travelers spent $52.5 billion dollars in 2023 on the following:

$13.5 billion on transportation

$10.9 billion on lodging

$9.7 billion on food and beverages

Recreation, retail, and tournament operations rounded out spending, registering $6.9 billion, $6.5 billion, and $4.7 billion, respectively. The nation’s lodging sector accounted for 21% of all sports-related travel spending. In 2023, sports-related travel generated 73.5 million room nights, which is an important factor given that hotel taxes are a primary funding source for many entities.

Top 10 States for Most Economic Impact by Sports Tourism Unveiled:

For the first time, the Sports ETA State of the Industry Report has identified the Top 10 list of states in terms of the economic impact generated by sports tourism in 2023. Data provided by sports tourism industry stakeholders and economic data were utilized in the ranking analysis. Sports tourism marketing funds and other initiatives, such as bid fees and local grants, also influence how states perform. They are:

  1. Florida
  2. Texas
  3. California
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Illinois
  6. Ohio
  7. New York
  8. Tennessee
  9. Georgia
  10. Virginia

The Palm Beaches’ sports tourism landscape significantly contributed to Florida’s top ranking in creating economic impact within the nation’s sports tourism economy. Palm Beach County was recently recognized as one of the elite sports destinations in the United States per the Sports Business Journal (SBJ), which announced its second year of rankings for Best Sports Business Cities (BSBC). The Palm Beaches ranked number five in the “Cities Without a Big Five Team” category, which represents destinations without a local sports franchise participating in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS. Furthermore, Sports ETA selected the Palm Beach County Sports Commission as a finalist for “Sports Commission of the Year” due to its record-breaking year for sports tourism in 2023. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission hosted 196 events, representing over 40 different types of sports during the last year, creating new benchmarks for sports related attendees, lodging room nights, and economic impact.

Palm Beach County’s sports resume is robust and diverse. Equestrian show jumping and baseball are two of the top-producing sports in The Palm Beaches. The Palm Beaches represent the only county that is home to two MLB Spring Training facilities that each accommodate two teams. In addition to hosting one out of four MLB Spring Training games in Florida, Palm Beach County is also home to one of the largest collection of national baseball tournaments compared to any other destination in the United States. Home to the PGA Tour, ATP Tour, Billie Jean King Cup, FIP Polo World Championships, NCAA Championships, the Boca Raton Bowl, and an array of the largest youth sports events taking place in the nation, Palm Beach County is one of the preeminent sports destinations on the globe. This year, Palm Beach County was home to the first Olympic Qualifier to take place in the United States for the 2024 Summer Olympics Games in Paris (Federation of International Gymnastics – World Cup of Trampoline & Tumbling). The entire sports event industry traveled to The Palm Beaches this October, by hosting the 25th edition of the TEAMS Conference + Expo.