Sports-crazy Fans Bring Cheer to Travel Firms
Jaydeep Raval, an ardent fan of Formula 1 racing from Mumbai, is busy planning his trip to Abu Dhabi with three other likeminded people this November to catch the Grand Prix live. “Passion for this sport drives me to spend the money and watch the event live where the excitement and thrill is at a different level altogether,” says the 34-year-old Ferrari fan who is talking to travel companies to secure the best deal. According to travel companies, travelling for sporting events with family and friends is coming of age in India with more and more sports lovers coming forward to spend big bucks to watch the thrills and spills of the world’s biggest sporting events such as the football world cup, Olympics and Wimbledon. Sensing the rising opportunity, many travel companies have set up sports divisions to lure this niche segment in India with customised deals. Sports tourism or travelling to watch a sporting event has grown by around 30% over the last 5-6 years, said Karan Anand, head-relationships at Cox & Kings. The travel and tour operator is selling customised packages for the football World Cup in Brazil with prices start from $1,150 and go up to $25,050. And many Indian families will be spending that kind of money to watch the beautiful game in the land of football. Anand said there is an increase of 15-20% in travellers going for FIFA 2014 in Brazil compared to South Africa in 2010. Rajendra Gogri, 54, is taking his family on a two-week tour to Brazil to watch the World Cup. Gogri, who heads a Mumbai-based listed chemical manufacturing company, was among some select Indians who made it to the London Olympics 2012. “The high point of the travel was seeing our country winning the silver medal and the feeling wouldn't have been the same watching it on TV,” he said.
Soccer enthusiasts, like Gogri, are not travelling to Brazil to watch the World Cup alone. “Football aficionados and enthusiasts from India have shown strong interest not merely to witness this global event live, but equally to explore the delightful diversity of Brazil and South America,” said Shibani Phadkar, senior vice president — products and operations, leisure travel (outbound), at Thomas Cook India. Meanwhile, several football fans who have booked their tickets for the World Cup through All India Football Federation (AIFF) are still to secure their visa, according to a media report. While the Brazilian consulate has insisted on applicants producing a copy of their tickets before issuing visa, AIFF has yet to collect the tickets from FIFA, the international football governing body. FIFA has asked the Indian association to collect the tickets — totalling 263 — through a representative from either Brazil or Manchester. An AIFF representative has left for Rio de Janeiro to collect the tickets, but several fans — especially those who have booked tickets for the opening ceremony on June 12 in Sao Paulo — are unsure if they will get visa in time. Brazil’s ministry of tourism estimates 3.7 million people will travel throughout Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Many sports fans prefer tour packages rather than managing on their own, particularly in events such as World Cup where one maybe travelling across cities. In fact, F1 fan Raval said it was a travel package advertisement that triggered his first trip to watch F1. “Then there has been no racing event that we missed live,” he said. CentrumDirect, which owns Club 7 Holidays, has opened a sports tourism arm to focus on all the major international sporting events happening from 2014 onwards. “There is a lot of logistics involved, especially for the first timers who are travelling overseas for a particular sport,” said T C Guruprasad, MD at CentrumDirect, which offers door-to-door packages including air tickets, hotel stay, event tickets, sightseeing and transportation. While most sport lovers travel to witness their favourite game, some travel to play theirs. An avid golfer, Shashi Kiran Shetty travels to different countries to play the game he loves. “I travel to countries like Florida and California in US where the infrastructure for golf is well developed,” says Shetty, 57, who heads a listed logistics firm, headquartered in Mumbai. While sports tourism is a still a niche segment, travel companies expect the segment to be an important revenue generator in the coming years. “The revenue from sports tourism is growing by 10-12% year-on-year and this is set to increase with the growing awareness about international events,” said Vishal Suri, CEO — tour operating at Kuoni India. According to tourism analysts, the sports tourism industry is worth an estimated 450 billion globally and in the next three years, India is expected to grab around 20% of the market share of sports tourism in Asia.
Operators say travelling abroad to watch a sporting event has grown by around 30% over the last 5-6 years