Exorbitant ticket prices, an uninspiring build-up from the Men in Blue, and the absence of direct flights to the Caribbean mean most Indians will prefer to watch the World Cup on television.
Three weeks before the biggest cricket extravaganza, Indians in the country and abroad are yet to catch World Cup fever. At least travel agencies say they find no symptoms of it.
“Last time round (when the World Cup was held in South Africa), between 3,000 and 3,500 tourists bought our World Cup packages. This time, we are not expecting more than a thousand,” says Shyam Kartikeya, business head, SOTC Sport Abroad, one of the official travel agents for the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2007. “Bookings are lower by more than 20 per cent compared to the last World Cup,” adds Jyoti Mayal, director, New Airways.
In the UK, the response from Indians to World Cup packages has been lukewarm. Surinder Punj of Holiday Express says there had been no booking so far.
Punj says he expects a sudden surge in demand if India reach the quarterfinals.
One of the major dampers in India is the cost of tour packages to the West Indies. “Packages are priced Rs 3 lakh onward. They are at least Rs 1 lakh higher than packages to South Africa,” says Rajji Rai, vice-president, Travel Agents Association of India.
Rai says there are no direct flights from India to the West Indies. One has to fly to Europe or the US first. And that pushes up the expenses.