With England and Wales set to host the festival of cricket after a gap of two decades, many Indian cricket fans are en-route to catch the action in cradle of the sport, which also happens to be one of the most popular countries in Europe for tourists from around the world.
Stadiums thronged with people in Indian jerseys shouting slogans of ‘India, India’, and a wave of crowd forming a Mexican wave and cheering for the team, that’s the dream of every Indian cricket fan and they could not have asked for a better time and place for the Cricket World Cup this year. With summer vacations just beginning, many of them can pan their holidays around the World Cup, one of the biggest sports extravaganzas in the world.
Indeed, much has changed since the World Cup was last held in England in 1999. The last two decades have seen a dramatic increase in outbound tourism in India as boosted by a booming economy and increased awareness, the Indian traveller has developed a taste for globetrotting. Hence, in 1999, few could afford the luxury of being in the stadium to catch the action live, this year tens of thousands of cricket fans are expected to be in the stands to support the Men in Blue as they launch their quest for bringing the trophy back to India eight years after the last win in 2011.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, comprising a total of 48 matches, is all set to get in motion from May 30 and the excitement will peak in the final on July 14.
The United Kingdom has been preferred by majority of Indians as a holiday destination and with the sporting bonanza has only added to its appeal amongst the Indian travellers. According to Cox and Kings, a leading tour operator, over 477,000 Indians visited the UK in 2018, about 10 pc more than the previous year, and of these, over 60 pc visited between April and July, the peak summer period for Indian travellers.
UK’s visa service vendor VFS Global has already processed over 200,000 visa applications in India between January and April. According to the British High Commission, currently, nearly 3,500 Indians are applying for a UK visa every day for travel during the World Cup.
Following the Men in Blue
For many, cricket is much more than a sport, it is a rich melange of varied emotions and what could be emotionally more fulfilling for the die hard fans than touring with the national team. Following the team not only gives travellers an opportunity to witness the matches but also the rare opportunity of watching the team warm up sessions when their heroes are much more relaxed than on the match days. And of course, moving from one venue to another for the matches provides the fans the opportunity to travel and explore cities that they may not normally have been to.
“Cricket tourism is one of the key drivers for sports tourism in India. The popularity of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world’s richest professional cricket tournament, where travellers go across India to watch their favourite team play, is a proof that cricket tourism is increasingly popular and not just domestically. During the last ICC World Cup played in Australia/New Zealand in 2015, over 25,000 Indians had travelled the continent to witness the World Cup,” Karan Anand, head relationships, Cox and Kings, told India Outbound.
Accordingly, tour operators have come up with packages to meet the requirements of travellers. “We have not come out with off-the-shelf packages but customise it according to the requirements of our travellers. Many of them who have booked their match tickets have booked other sightseeing options with us and all these are tailor-made for each traveller,” adds Anand.
According to Anand, the majority of the bookings are from the biggest metropolitan cities. “From metro cities, we have travellers combining World Cup matches with an extended holiday in UK and Europe. The highest percentage of people opting for packages are from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru respectively. This is the peak season for Indians headed to Europe, and coupled with the ICC Cricket World Cup demand, we have seen a 30 pc increase in the number of travellers to Europe. The growth is 30 pc from Delhi; 26 pc from Mumbai and 20 pc from Bangalore.”
Tips for planning your travel for the World Cup:
- A group of travellers can apply for appointments together at the same visa application centre, on the same day – ideal for families, tour operators, work conferences, students and anyone travelling in a group.
- Choose from a wide range of products at the Britain Travel Shop, including match tickets, Oyster cards, Brit Rail passes, and passes for various UK attractions.
- Apply for a visa from a location of choice, be it home, office or school campus. This service is ideal for large groups travelling together, allowing flexibility of enrolling biometrics and visa application submission.
- Apply for visa outside of standard hours – ideal for busy working professionals and groups of travellers. Get your application processed within five working days with the Priority Visa service, or within 24 hours with the Super Priority visa service.