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Sports tourism has reached a crescendo, with the FIFA World Cup coming up. Experts tell Ruchika Kher how Indians are also taking their love for travel and sport to the next level, by planning holidays around sporting events.

Sports tourism
The growing popularity of sports in India is resulting in a relatively new kind of tourism — sports tourism — where people don’t abstain from spending big money to watch their favourite sporting stars, live.

football
Brazil, which that has won five  football World Cups till now, readies itself to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup from June 12 onwards. Pic/Getty Images

“Indians have been exposed to a variety of sports on sports channels. Hence, the lure of seeing the matches live is on a high. Additionally, there has been a surge in disposable income, which has also lead to this growth,” maintains Karan Anand, Head-Relationships, Cox & Kings Ltd.

Not just cricket, Indian are travelling abroad to witness other sporting events too. Pic/Getty Images
Not just cricket, Indian are travelling abroad to witness other sporting events too. Pic/Getty Images

Who’s in?
Decoding the age bracket and the segment of individuals that is giving a boost to sports tourism, Anand adds that sports vacations are gaining popularity especially amongst sports enthusiasts, High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs), corporate clients, young executives, and DINKS (Double Income No Kids). The age group ranges from 26 to 46, on an average.

Many Indians plan their travel to the UK, to watch Wimbledon.
Many Indians plan their travel to the UK, to watch Wimbledon. Pic/AFP

Shibani Phadkar, Senior Vice President, Products & Operations, Leisure Travel (Outbound), Thomas Cook (India) Ltd reveals that sports tourism leads to a good amount of money exchange since tourists tend to stay for a little longer in the country visited. “The profile of tourists keen on indulging in sports-based travel itineraries are generally high-spenders; they tend to stay longer compared to other traveller segments.” She adds that with a number of mega sport events like the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup or the Cricket World Cup gaining colossal popularity across the globe, sports tourism is expected to contribute to a significant growth in the international tourism market in the coming years.

The Scotstoun Stadium, will be the venue for athletics during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
The Scotstoun Stadium, will be the venue for athletics during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Pic/Getty Images

As far as gender disparity in this growing trend is concerned, Sharat Dhall, President, Yatra.com puts things into perspective. “Interestingly, the segment varies with the kind of sport in question. We have typically seen during IPL season, a blend of families travelling together to witness the matches. While in the case of FIFA 2014, we have seen more number of groups of men approaching us for bookings.” Though women travellers aren’t far behind; Phadkar, optimistically quotes that they are witnessing an increasing interest by women travellers as well.

India enters the playing field too
India is emerging as a popular destination as well. “The Elephant and Horse Polo tournaments organised by Jaipur Riding & Polo Club (JRPC) and the Ladakh Marathon that offers a chance to run with local Ladakhis through a high mountain desert region are looked forward to. This apart, the Surfing Federation of India organises surf events in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where international tourists participate,” says Moomal Singh, co-founder, Some Place Else, a travel company. She adds that Kerala’s snake boat races held in its backwaters in the monsoon, sees an international tourists presence too.

Log on to: www.facebook.com/SomePlaceElseIndia

Where to head
>> FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil (June 12 onwards)
>> Indian cricket team’s tour to England (June 23 onwards)
>> Wimbledon in London (June 23 onwards)
>> Tour de France in France (July 5 onwards)
>> British Golf Open in Merseyside (July 17 onwards)
>> Commonwealth Games in Scotland (July 23 onwards)
>> Asian Games in South Korea (September 23 onwards)
>> F1 Grand Prix in Singapore (September)
>> ICC Cricket World Cup (February 2015 onwards)

Checklist
>> 
Early planning, especially for global sports events, gives you an opportunity to conduct your own research in terms of different pricing and package options available; also avail of early bird offers, or group discounts.

>>  A multi-currency forex prepaid card is handy as it offers benefits of multiple currencies loaded on a single card, safety of a chip and pin and access to multiple access points worldwide

>>  Travellers are advised to opt for travel insurance coverage as it minimises financial risks of travelling: accidents, illnesses, missed flights, trip cancellation and loss of checked baggage, terrorism, emergency evacuation, and repatriation of mortal remains.

Inputs: Shibani Phadkar, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd

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