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Get Fit, Go Far: Popular Destinations for Sports and Fitness Tourism in 2024

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of sports and fitness tourism, a travel industry niche catering to sports fans, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts who wish to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while exploring new destinations.

According to Grand View Research, the global sports tourism market was a goliath in 2022 at USD 587.87 billion and is predicted to surge ahead with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.5% from 2023 to 2030.

This type of tourism isn’t about lounging on sunbeds or meandering through museums—it’s travel with a pulse that invigorates the body as much as it does the mind, whether you’re participating in a marathon or simply spending your mornings doing yoga and meditating on the beach.

Ready to lace up your running shoes, pack your gear, and set out on a journey that promises to elevate both your heart rate and your spirits? Let’s explore leading destinations and fitness-focused travel trends together!

Popular destinations and events

New York City: The TCS New York City Marathon

As one of the world’s most famous marathons, the TCS New York City Marathon (3 November 2024), one of six World Marathon Majors, is an exhilarating event taking runners through all five boroughs, starting in Staten Island from Verrazano Bridge and concluding in Central Park. It spans 42.195 km – now that’s a tour of The Big Apple you won’t soon forget.

Other highlights: Enjoy a picnic or go jogging in Central Park, snap selfies in front of historic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and sing along to your favourite musical hits on Broadway.

Victoria Falls: The Tour d’Afrique

The Tour d’Afrique (12 January – 4 May 2024) is an epic trans-continental journey, stretching from Cairo to Cape Town, with 72 riding days, 32 rest days, and four days for travel.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will test your boundaries while allowing you to explore beyond them,” says Antoinette Turner, GM of Flight Centre South Africa. “While you’ll tick various incredible destinations off your travel bucket list along the way, including Botswana and Namibia, the leg through Victoria Falls is often deemed the main attraction by most participants, promising a mesmerising backdrop, the thunderous roar of the falls to cheer you on, and the possibility of rainbows at every turn.”

Other highlights: Apart from the race, travellers can indulge in safari tours in the nearby national parks, bungee jumping, or a tranquil sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.

KwaZulu-Natal: The Comrades Marathon

The Comrades Marathon (9 June 2024), one of the world’s oldest ultramarathons taking place between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, is known for its gruelling route and the camaraderie it fosters. Prepare for an epic race spanning over 80 km – complete it within 12 hours to snag your finisher’s medal.

Other highlights: Beyond the race, KZN is a local gem celebrated for its exceptional natural beauty, from the Drakensberg mountains to the warm Indian Ocean beaches. Visitors can enjoy safaris in Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, dive with sharks in Aliwal Shoal, or soak up Zulu culture in cultural villages.

San Francisco: The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

In the heart of California, The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon (also 9 June 2024) presents thrill-seeking athletes with a daunting swim from the notorious prison island, followed by a bike ride and run through San Francisco’s hilly terrain. Random drawing registrations close in mid-November each year, so don’t delay if this is the physical challenge you have your eye on. Only 2,000 athletes can participate, and most of them are selected through the random drawing procedure.

Other highlights: San Francisco offers plenty of relaxed post-race pursuits. Ride the historic cable cars, visit the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, and unwind with a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge with stunning views of the bay.

Tokyo: The Tokyo Marathon

The Tokyo Marathon (3 March 2024), another World Marathon Major and covering a distance of 42.195 km, takes runners on a modern-day samurai route, showcasing some of the city’s most sought-after attractions.

Other highlights: After the marathon, visitors can explore ancient temples like Senso-ji, experience the bustling Shibuya Crossing, relish exquisite Japanese cuisine, and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Tokyo Imperial Palace gardens.

Upcoming trends in sports/fitness tourism

Now that you’re aware of some of the most exciting upcoming events in sports/fitness tourism, it’s time to examine a couple of trends expected to dominate in 2024 and beyond.

Mindful marathon running is emerging within athlete circles around the globe. It’s where marathon runners fully immerse themselves in the act of running while staying present and connected. It’s an approach that emphasises being in the moment, focusing on the body’s movements and signals, and tuning out distractions.

Runners are encouraged to focus on their breathing, the sensations in their bodies, and their immediate surroundings rather than on metrics or performance goals. Engaging in mindful marathon running can enhance the quality of the running experience, allowing for a deeper connection to the activity and potentially increasing long-term participation. Mindful running can also help improve mental clarity, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance overall well-being by facilitating a meditative state that combines physical exertion with mental relaxation.

Then there’s endorphin tourism – the pursuit of travel experiences designed to be physically challenging and stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

“Endorphin tourists are drawn to activities like hiking and running across challenging, remote trails, offering both an intense workout and the opportunity to connect with nature,” comments Turner.

“As for destinations, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is high on the list – after all, climbing Africa’s tallest peak requires stamina and provides an intense sense of achievement. Similarly, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, the trails of the Swiss Alps, and New Zealand’s rugged landscapes all cater to those looking for an endorphin-boosting experience,” she adds.

Quick tips for sports/fitness-focused tourists

  • Book or register far in advance, especially for key events where availability may be limited.
  • Factor in time for visa applications – some can take weeks to complete.
  • Invest in travel insurance. Participating in sports and fitness activities, especially in unfamiliar environments, carries a risk of injury. Travel insurance can help cover the cost of medical treatment if required.
  • Arrive and depart from your destination earlier to acclimatise if you’re participating in a fitness event. It’s also a good idea to linger after the event so you have the opportunity to explore.
  • Research and plan for your dietary needs. Some destinations may not cater to specific nutrition plans, so consider packing essential items or supplements.
  • Familiarise yourself with local customs, especially if your activities take you through towns or rural areas. Respecting local traditions and the environment is paramount.
  • Have a plan for emergencies. Know the local emergency numbers, nearest medical facilities, and have a basic first aid kit with you.
  • Ensure your fitness devices are compatible with local charging outlets and consider data connectivity for tracking apps or devices.
  • Plan rest days into your itinerary to allow your body to recover, especially after intensive activities or long-haul flights.

Remember, planning a successful sport- or fitness-focused getaway is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no such thing as starting too soon. Enjoy the journey!


Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) SA is part of Flight Centre Travel Group, an Australia-based international travel company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, with a market cap of AU$4.61 billion and a current share price of AU$21.04 as of 30 January 2024. FCTG with three leading brands: Flight Centre, Corporate Traveller and FCM, of which Corporate Traveller and FCM are proud level 1 BBBEE Contributors. FCTG SA is wholly owned and has been recognised as one of Deloitte’s Best Companies to Work for in South Africa for over a decade.

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