China fans ex­pected to flock to Rus­sia

New Straits Times - - Sport - FENG TAO

Un­til now, the ma­jor­ity have only been able to fol­low the World Cup on tele­vi­sion but now there’s go­ing to be the op­por­tu­nity for them to travel to watch and for them to see a World Cup.

HONG KONG: Chi­nese fans are ex­pected to travel to the 2018 World Cup fi­nals in record num­bers with the grow­ing in­ter­est in foot­ball and a cor­dial re­la­tion­ship with hosts Rus­sia seen as key fac­tors, de­spite the na­tional side’s fail­ings on the pitch.

China have only played at one World Cup and the cur­rent team face an up­hill bat­tle to book a berth at the next one, but Feng Tao, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of mar­ket­ing and events firm Shankai, be­lieves fans will flock to Rus­sia re­gard­less.

“We are con­fi­dent we can bring more fans to Rus­sia be­cause of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Rus­sia and China,” said Feng Tao, whose com­pany has signed an ex­clu­sive deal with BH Hos­pi­tal­ity to sell travel pack­ages for the tour­na­ment to the Chi­nese mar­ket.

“The coun­tries are very close, it’s much eas­ier to go to Rus­sia than it was to go to Brazil, which took 24 or 25 hours, or to South Africa, which took 14 or 15 hours. To go to Rus­sia takes only seven hours from China, so it’s eas­ier.

“His­tor­i­cally, there’s a good re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Rus­sia and now foot­ball has be­come part of the men­tal­ity of the Chi­nese peo­ple. Busi­ness­men, the me­dia and fans are show­ing strong in­ter­est in the World Cup.

“Un­til now, the ma­jor­ity have only been able to fol­low the World Cup on tele­vi­sion but now there’s go­ing to be the op­por­tu­nity for them to travel to watch and for them to see a World Cup.”

While the fig­ures are un­likely to eclipse the num­bers who trav­elled to South Korea to watch China play in 2002 — as many as 100,000 were be­lieved to have seen the side’s World Cup de­but — Shankai are ex­pect­ing 50,000 pack­ages to be sold to Chi­nese fans as part of the ex­pected US$25 mil­lion (RM110 mil­lion) deal.

The pro­jected fig­ure rep­re­sents the most for a World Cup that does not fea­ture the Chi­nese team, a sig­nif­i­cant up­swing on the num­bers sold for the 2014 World Cup fi­nals, when 3,000 pack­ages — mainly at the high­est end — were sold.

“The fans who went to Brazil were spend­ing more money,” says John Parker, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of BH Hos­pi­tal­ity.

“But what we are see­ing in China is that they are wak­ing up to the pas­sion of sport and, be­cause of the in­ter­net es­pe­cially, they are now able to ac­cess ev­ery­thing they re­quire and they are com­fort­able do­ing that.

“Tourism be­tween Rus­sia and China is very strong and the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion is falling in love with foot­ball.

“The World Cup is the high­est point of the game and Chi­nese fans will be able to go to Rus­sia with­out any prob­lems be­cause the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries is so strong and healthy.

“China is go­ing to be a growth mar­ket. It’s al­ready de­vel­op­ing from where it was his­tor­i­cally.” Reuters

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