SWAC Soccer Makes a Big Tourism Impact


SoccerIt’s the world’s number-one sport.

It’s what the rest of the world calls football, of course. But we call it soccer. And you might say Gaston County’s economy recently got a big kick out of soccer.

How? A major focus of Gaston County Travel and Tourism’s strategy has been on targeting and booking weekend groups that positively affect hotel room stays. One such example occurred recently when we secured the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Department’s annual SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) Soccer Tournament, due in large part to the support of our teammates with Gaston County Parks and Recreation.

Thanks to a successful travel and tourism and parks and recreation collaboration, Gaston County hosted the 2017 event at George Poston Park in Lowell over the weekend of Nov. 18 and 19. The competition attracted 56 youth recreation soccer teams. In all, there were eight divisions, both girls and boys, ages 14 and under, 12 and under, 10 and under and 8 and under.

Of the 56 teams participating, which represented areas from all over the state, a total of 42 (or three-quarters of them) traveled in from out of town. Of the traveling teams, 14 (or one-third) came from a distance of more than 200 miles; 25 (or 60 percent) came from a distance of more than 100 miles; and three (or seven percent) traveled more than 50 miles to get to this unforgettable soccer event.

The visitation generated by this opportunity contributed to more business for hotel partners throughout the county.
A review of our weekly STR (Smith Travel Research) hotel demand report shows that, compared to the same weekend
the previous year, our market saw an increase of 201 hotel rooms sold on Friday the 17th of November and of 268 hotel rooms sold on Saturday the 18th. That’s a 21-percent improvement for Friday night and a 29-percent improvement for Saturday night. The Best Western, Comfort Suites, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn (Gastonia) and Holiday Inn Express (Gastonia) hotels all reported that they had teams staying with them at their properties.

The two people most responsible for bringing this event to us were Brandon Black, travel and tourism’s sales and
marketing manager, and Brian Rogers, the athletic facility coordinator for Gaston County Parks and Recreation. Not only did Brandon and Brian help to book it, but they also helped to facilitate and service the event. They did a great job in this regard and received many well-deserved accolades.

Mark Geiger with Burlington Parks and Recreation was among the soccer games’ attendees that were duly impressed.

“I thought the tournament was run fine,” said Geiger. “Referees were there on time, and games started promptly.

Of the 56 teams participating, which represented areas from all over the state, a total of 42 (or three-quarters of them) traveled in from out of town. Pretty efficiently run tournament!”

This thought was echoed by Phil Harper of Pembroke Parks and Recreation.

“(The) tournament was well-organized, well-planned,” said Harper. “The facility was really nice. Enjoyed the stay; thanks!”

Lastly, Cody Suggs with Scotland County Parks and Recreation shared his thoughts.

“Dining was wonderful!” said Suggs. “Everyone loved Hillbillies (the Lowell barbecue restaurant), around the corner from the field. The tournament was run very professionally, and Brian and his staff were more than willing to go the extra mile to provide information. Our parents and participants really enjoyed themselves and loved the park.”

Due to these efforts, the event was well-received and left a lasting positive impression on many of the attendees. This is, perhaps, every bit as important as having booked it in the first place, because it leads to satisfaction, loyalty, positive word of mouth and repeat business for our destination.