Travel portals and tour operators bet on ICC World Cup


Travel portals and tour operators are placing their bets on the ICC Cricket World Cup coming up at the end of the month, which is expected to significantly boost overseas bookings. Travel operators have said that cricket has always been a powerful driver for the travel business and the UK is reporting an over 35% increase in demand for bookings between May 30 and July 14, the duration for the Cup, which happens every 4 years.

Operators said the demand is led by the corporate MICE segment with industries ranging from BFSI to paints looking to travel for the World Cup besides ad hoc groups of friends and young working millennials with the India-Pakistan match on June 16 almost a ‘mandatory inclusion’ in every tour package.

“The World Cup is resulting in significant demand not just for the UK, but Ireland too,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head, holiday, MICE, visa services at Thomas Cook India.

“Customers are opting for various combinations beyond the traditional favourites like London. Locales like the Lake District, Manchester, Windermere, Liverpool, Windsor, Cambridge, York, are rapidly emerging on the Indian traveller’s radar,” said Kale.

Portals said that British Airways is moving in fast to fill in the gap created by the collapse of Jet Airways and from June 2, the UK airline will add four additional services per week to and from Mumbai. British Airways said it was increasing its capacity on the Heathrow to Mumbai service in response to the ‘increased customer demand’.

“During the last Cricket World Cup that was held in Australia-New Zealand in 2015, over 25,000 Indians travelled from across the world to watch the matches. We expect this number to go up significantly considering that our team is playing very well and is expected to go the distance. The demand for the World Cup is quite high and we expect that growth from India to the UK to exceed 30% during the period,” said Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings.

England has experienced renewed interest from Indian travellers this year because of the cricket World Cup, said Daniel D’Souza, president and country head, leisure at SOTC Travel.

“Most of our customers who are looking to visit the country are planning their trips and itineraries accordingly so as to witness the four India matches scheduled between June 5 and June 16,” he said.

The British High Commissioner had said last month that over 80,000 Indians are expected to travel to the UK for the Cup.

Kale said venues that are seeing a demand include India-South Africa at South Hampton, India- England in Birmingham, India-Australia at the Oval, London and India – Sri Lanka in Leeds.

“In recent years, we have seen a growing trend of travellers combining an international trip with the opportunity to witness major sports events. According to ICC research, India constitutes 90% of the one billion cricket fans. With such a large cricket fan base, we think World Cup would be a major attraction for travel to England this June,” said Balu Ramachandran, head of air and distribution, Cleartrip, a travel portal.