(Image source from: OrissaPOST)
The multi-billion sports tourism industry is gaining traction in India as more Indians are inclined to visit countries hosting big sporting events, Online Travel Agencies (OTA) and tour operators said.
Bookings to the United Kingdom continue to be on the rise with travelers trickling in not just for the ICC Cricket World Cup but also Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix next month.
India's biggest OTA, MakeMyTrip, said in April advance bookings to London, Manchester, and Birmingham for the final ICC World Cup matches, that overlap with Wimbledon and British Grand Prix, soared to a recordhigh of 100 percent compared to 2018.
“Indians have shown more enthusiasm than ever before to visit countries hosting big sporting events. Cricket is the first love for many Indians, and the numbers continue to show an upward trajectory with more and more people traveling to watch the games, whether within India for IPL or overseas for mega-events like ICC World Cup,” said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and chief executive officer, India, MakeMyTrip. “There has also been a shift in interests for other sporting events like the football world cup and Olympics,” he added.
In 2018, MakeMyTrip witnessed an over 400 percent jump in bookings to Russia for FIFA and the company is expecting an equivalent inflow of bookings for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics next year. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 24-August 9 next year.
Fanatic Sports, the entity selling tickets for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has not started selling tickets yet, but travel agents said queries have already started coming in from Indian travelers.
Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings, said although a large number of sports fans have planned to devote their time to the cricket World Cup, a considerable number of Indians are also flying exclusively to the UK to witness the grand slam tennis tournament and F1.
“These are sports that have gained traction from India. Making June and July one of the busiest periods for the UK in terms of tourists coming in, the sporting events have successfully extended tourist season up to the end of July as compared to the traditional summer outing that ends in May for Indians. We see a spike of over 30 percent in arrivals into UK and Europe during this period,” he added.
The 2019 Wimbledon championship starts from July 1 and goes on till July 14. The British Grand Prix is the oldest in the Formula One calendar and will be held on July 14.
About 15 lakh people were expected to visit Russia around the World Cup last year with Indians accounting for more than 20 percent of the number.
“Owing to demand, Thomas Cook India introduced special World Cup tour packages such as United Kingdom Delights with Liverpool and York, London Delights, United Kingdom Delights with Ireland and others to assist last-minute travelers. With e-business becoming one of the key drivers for the World Cup, we witnessed a surge of 22 percent in online inquiries for UK packages in comparison to last year,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head, holiday, MICE and visa for Thomas Cook.
By Sowmya Sangam