In recent years, among the various facets of travel, such as leisure and business, one niche segment has garnered exceptional attention and evolved into a global travel phenomenon: Sports tourism. This rapidly growing segment gives sports enthusiasts a unique opportunity to delve into diverse destinations and experience their cultures while participating in live action.
While sports tourism is not a novel concept, its popularity has recently surged. Sports fans are no longer content being passive spectators and want to be a part of the action. As per data, the sports tourism market in India currently boasts an estimated valuation of nearly $37,646.36 million and is poised to grow with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.8 percent from 2022 through 2032.
Furthermore, considering the case of India, the past decade has witnessed the inception of league competitions such as the Indian Premier League, Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League, and more. By introducing international players into domestic teams, these leagues have significantly expanded the fan base of these sports.
In addition, the global appeal of events like the ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2023, being hosted in the country after 12 years, has generated immense excitement. Cricket has over one billion fans globally, with the Indian subcontinent constituting more than 90 percent, according to the largest-ever market research into the sport conducted by the ICC.
As those Indian fans, as well as those from abroad, converge in India to watch the matches live, this, in turn, boosts the country's travel and hospitality sectors. As the official accommodation partner for the ongoing World Cup, it also presents a unique opportunity for us at Booking.com to facilitate cricket-inspired travel experiences for sports tourists. Travellers today seek experiences that emphasise unparalleled efficiency, convenience, and immersion. With the connected trip experience, they can blend various travel components like taxis, rental cars, flights, attractions and unique places to stay to create a comprehensive, integrated itinerary.
Hence, sports events serve as a magnet for aficionados, wielding significant economic influence on local economies. For instance, post ICC's announcement of the ODI World Cup to be held in India, there has been a 1,550 percent increase in searches for accommodation in Ahmedabad for the match date—October 14, when India and Pakistan played at the venue—as compared to the same time last year, data from Booking.com reveals.
Seven out of the topmost searched domestic destinations by Indian travellers from October 1 to November 20 include host cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad.
Events like the World Cup present an unparalleled opportunity to promote the host country's hospitality and culture while boosting tourism. They become catalysts for forging meaningful connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds, uniting them through their shared passion for the game. Hence, sports events attract tourists, stimulate the local economy, create employment opportunities, and drive investment in infrastructure.
In conclusion, sports tourism has emerged as a dominant and dynamic trend in travel. The emotional rollercoaster of sports offers a unique and immersive experience. It's no wonder some travel enthusiasts transform into super fans, journeying across India and the world to witness their teams or players in action.
The writer is Country Manager, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives & Indonesia at Booking.com.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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