It is tough being an Indian in the West Indies. Exorbitant ticket prices, an uninspiring build-up from the men in blue and the absence of direct flights to the Caribbean will mean most Indian fans will prefer to watch the World Cup on television.
Three weeks before the biggest cricket extravaganza, Indians are not gripped by World Cup mania, yet. “Last time around, between 3,000 and 3,500 tourists bought our World Cup packages.
This time, we are not expecting more than 1,000,” says Shyam Kartikeya, business head, SOTC Sport Abroad, one of the official travel agents for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007. “Bookings have dropped over 20 per cent compared to the last World Cup in South Africa,” adds Jyoti Mayal, director, New Airways Travel.
Even in the UK, long considered a hot market for cricket tourism, the response has been lukewarm. Travel agencies that cater to Indians in Britain say bookings are low. Surinder Punj, Holiday Express and Welcome Travel Group spokesman, confirmed there were no bookings so far.
Indians in the UK appear to be waiting for the team to make some headway, it appears. “If India reaches the quarter-finals, we expect a surge in demand for packages,” says Punj.
The tepid response boils down to economics. “Packages are priced Rs 3 lakh onward. It is at least Rs 1 lakh higher than packages to South Africa,” says Rajji Rai, vice-president, Travel Agents Association of India.
Not everybody is bogged down by economics, though. Top-end travellers will shell out between Rs 6.3 lakh and Rs 9 lakh for The Geographical Company’s 11-day cruise from Puerto Rico to Barbados. Of the 500 packages that Sporting Journeys, the biggest travel agency in London, has sold for the Caribbean at £2,000 (Rs 1.7 lakh) upward, 30 per cent have been bought by Indians. The cup of tourists may again brim over if the Indians win the series against Sri Lanka. For the moment, though, travel agents are a worried lot. email@example.com
Why TV’s better
n Going to the Caribbean’s too expensive. Packages are priced at Rs 3 lakh onwards. This is at least Rs 1 lakh higher than packages to South Africa, which hosted the last World Cup and is also hosting the Twenty20 World Cup this year.
n Many are waiting for the team to make some headway in the tournament before booking their tickets.
n However, top-end travellers will shell out between Rs 6.3 lakh and Rs 9 lakh for The Geographical Company’s 11-day cruise from Puerto Rico to Barbados.