The summer of sports: Navigating new heights in the travel industry

Ben Knapp explores how travel brands can harness the excitement of this summer’s sports extravaganza

Ben Knapp

Executive Growth Officer Saffron Brand Consultants


Europe's summer calendar is brimming with major sporting events, all of which are magnets for global attention: the Olympics in Paris, the UEFA Champions League finals in London, and Euro 2024 in Germany. And where the entertainment is, people will follow, with 15 million tourists expected to flock to Paris this summer to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and 2.5 million football fans traveling to Berlin for the UEFA Euros.

These events offer travel brands a golden opportunity to align with the cherished values of each tournament, such as sustainability and inclusivity, in innovative and visible ways. Travel brands will have center stage, the perfect chance to seamlessly integrate these values into every aspect of their operations and marketing strategies. For instance, offering eco-friendly travel packages promoting responsible tourism, such as Air France, which will match customer donations for sustainable aviation fuel during the Olympics, furthering its commitment to lessen its environmental impact.

Also focusing on sustainability, Danone has been vocal about its commitment to reducing its environmental footprint, in alignment with the Paris Olympics 2024 goals of halving its carbon dioxide emissions compared to previous editions of the event. By engaging with these global spectacles, brands can transcend traditional advertising to connect with audiences, capitalize on the excitement surrounding the summer of sports and weave their narratives into the fabric of thrilling international camaraderie.

Visitor peaks and the challenge of over-tourism

With such high-profile events, Paris, London, and Berlin are set to experience a surge in visitors, spotlighting the double-edged sword of tourism. This influx presents a delicate challenge for travel brands: how to capitalize on the increased foot traffic while respecting community wellbeing and promoting sustainable tourism. Innovative travel and hospitality brands will need to navigate the risk of over-tourism carefully, ensuring that their presence promotes long-term positive impacts rather than transient gains.

By implementing initiatives such as affordable housing projects and youth engagement programs, brands can contribute to creating a lasting positive impact from the Games, aligning with the values of responsible tourism and inclusive growth.

Ben Knapp, Executive Growth Officer at Saffron Brand Consultants

Airbnb acknowledges its responsibility to address over-tourism and has implemented initiatives to encourage responsible travel and support local communities. Its programs including ‘Airbnb Experiences’ and ‘Airbnb Community Tourism Program’ empower hosts to offer authentic and sustainable experiences while providing economic opportunities for local residents.

Hosting the Paris 2024 Olympics presents significant opportunities for the hospitality industry, with projections of increased tourism and economic benefits. However, there are also concerns about the long-term consequences, including gentrification, displacement of communities, and strains on public services. To address these challenges, brands must prioritize sustainability, social inclusion, and legacy planning. By implementing initiatives such as affordable housing projects and youth engagement programs, brands can contribute to creating a lasting positive impact from the Games, aligning with the values of responsible tourism and inclusive growth.

Technology Enhances Cultural Encounters

Cutting-edge technology offers a solution to enhance the visitor experience while adding value. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can transform visits to cultural and historical sites, providing immersive storytelling and deeper engagement without the physical wear-and-tear on the venues.

The Louvre Museum in Paris has embraced VR technology to provide visitors with virtual tours of its renowned galleries and exhibitions. By using VR headsets, visitors can explore the museum's vast collection from the comfort of their homes or local VR lounges, offering an alternative way to experience the museum's treasures.

These technologies not only enhance tourism but also alleviate over-tourism by offering alternative explorations of crowded areas. For major events like the Olympics, travel brands can innovate by using VR to give fans worldwide the chance to virtually visit Olympic venues and engage with interactive content showcasing the host city's culture or using AR city guides to discover hidden gems.

Branding a destination

Participating in the global tourism boom helps with short-term gains, but by crafting memorable, sustainable, and respectful travel experiences, destinations can enjoy long-term benefits. Saffron Brand Consultants’ biennial City Brand Barometer evaluates what makes tourism destination cities successful, exploring how to position destinations effectively in an increasingly competitive market. Brands that invest equally in place-making – the products and services they offer to visitors – and place branding – the effort made to promote themselves – can see destinations attract sustainable, high-value tourism. They will also be more likely to compete successfully in major international conferences, sporting events and cultural affairs.

The summer of sport will be filled with excitement and enthusiasm from around the world, and it will be up to travel brands to not only facilitate this buzz but create memorable experiences for the millions of fans that will be traveling to watch their country compete.

Guest Author

Ben Knapp

Executive Growth Officer Saffron Brand Consultants


Ben began his career early, starting a design consultancy pre-university. After graduating, he grew his business while pursuing an MA in Brand Strategy. He sold the business and joined Saffron in 2006, where he’s been ever since. Specializing in telecoms, finance, industry, and place branding, Ben’s worked with clients including A1 Telekom Austria, City of London, Kyocera, Facebook, and XING.

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Sport Travel and Tourism