A general view of centre court at Roland Garros during an exhibition match between Nadal and Santoro before the start of the French Open tennis tournament in Paris, on May 26, 2007.
It was at the London Games 2012 that lesser-followed sports like judo, taekwondo, archery, kayaking and their superstars got a moment in the limelight. But, popular sports like football and cricket get more than their fair share of attention around the year, as tourists have begun to ditch traditional sun, sand and surf vacations in favour of sporty ones.
Indians, too, are taking a cue. Travel companies in the country are noticing a rise in the number of vacationers who want to indulge in some much-needed rest and recuperation, catching the tennis final at Wimbledon, F1 race in Singapore or a match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia. “There was a general interest in visiting the UK around the Olympics. In fact, we saw a 20% increase in our UK travel. But overall, such vacations are gaining popularity amongst sports enthusiasts, high net-worth individuals, corporate clients and young executives. Popular events include cricket, F1 and tennis,” says Karan Anand of Cox and Kings, adding that there has been a lot of interest around the Singapore Grand Prix, T20 World Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup, Australian Open and Wimbledon of late.
When it comes to niche events like Tour de France, tours are customised as per the requirements of the traveller. This means a skeletal package, which includes accommodation, transfers, meals and sightseeing as per the itinerary. “Sports tourism started with cricket in mind, as Indians love travelling and cricket. To tap this segment, tour operators began offering specialised packages. It has now spread to other sports like tennis, football, F1 and the Olympics,” says SD Nandakumar of SOTC. He informs that to add to the experience, apart from a Grandstand ticket at an F1 race, his company also provides paddock experiences.
Cricket, the sport that unites the country, is still on every fan’s radar. “The upcoming T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka is garnering a lot of interest,” says Mohit Gupta of MakeMyTrip. So go on, plan a holiday with your favourite sports star.
Lord’s cricket ground, United Kingdom
Sports tourism started with cricket in mind. Today, venues like Lord’s or the Melbourne Cricket Ground, find a place on every tour operator’s itinerary. Lord’s, termed as the home of cricket, is also home to the world’s oldest sporting museum. The ground can currently accommodate upto 32,000 spectators.
FC Barcelona, Spain
Catching Lionel Messi in action at Barcelona tops everyone’s agenda. Other popular football tournaments include the UEFA Euro and the FIFA World Cup.
Tour de France, French countryside
Though a niche choice, there has been a substantial increase in the number of travellers opting for customised packages to be a part of events like the Tour de France.
Formula one race, Singapore
The venue played host to F1’s first Night Race in 2008, and is attracting several enquiries from Indian tourists looking to make the most of an affordable holiday destination.
Though Indian travellers seek to experience events like the ICC World Cup and Wimbledon more, smaller sporting events like surfing competitions in Tahiti, too, make it to the list.
Roland Garros, France
Tennis grand slams are very popular. Rafael Nadal’s favourite turf, the French Open, is a favourite option. Wimbledon and the Australian Open are popular choices too.