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 fitness tourism destinations.
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.