HONOLULU -- Maui is making its mark in the world of sports tourism
with the ongoing success of its premier off-road triathlon.
Now in its seventh year, the Nissan Xterra World Championship
gathers some of the sport's best athletes in Wailea every October
immediately following the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in
It also provides a $3.5 million boost to the island and sparks
interest in the destination across the country.
The Ironman, which draws 1,500 top athletes -- plus their
families and friends -- has become readily identified with Kona and
sustained tourism on the Big Island.
Many choose to stick around an extra week for a shot at the
"double" prize, awarded to the male and female athletes with the
best combined times from Ironman and Xterra.
At this year's Xterra, people arrived from 20 countries and 30
states. But the event's reach extends far beyond the competitors
and their companions. First televised on ESPN, the race -- and the
island -- are now featured on CBS on Super Bowl Sunday.
"I want it to shine a big spotlight on Hawaii," said Tom Kiely,
president of TEAM Unlimited, the firm that organizes Xterra races
across the country and produces the television shows.
Sports and travel together are a rapidly growing industry, and
Hawaii increasingly is merging the two entities, whether it's
geared toward the participant, spectator or brand recognition.
Most spikes in visitor arrivals in the past year occurred around
sporting events, and this year's Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 8 is
experiencing record-breaking entries (officials anticipate
The Hawaii Tourism Authority spent $7.3 million promoting 19
sporting events last year, with $1.8 million devoted to hosting and
televising six PGA events and $4.8 million allocated to the NFL's
It seems to be working. "Travel agents have told us they get
renewed interest" in Maui after television specials like the Xterra
race, said Marsha Wienert, executive director of the Maui Visitors
Super Bowl Sunday has been dubbed Super Maui Sunday by tourism
officials because both Xterra and the Skins golf game at Wailea
will play before an audience that is, for the most part, stuck in
"You can't buy that kind of [exposure]," she added.
For more information, visitwww.visitmaui.com.