MUMBAI: Sports tourism, already a big business in developed markets, is starting to make inroads with Indian sports fans who are looking beyond cricket when they travel overseas to attend a sporting event.

According to Manmeet Ahluwalia, head of marketing at Expedia India, the launch of the Indian Premier League a decade ago was the catalyst, as fans began to travel internally in the country to watch games.

That trend gained international momentum a few years later when the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup was hosted across three countries: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

“We noticed another interesting trend during the 2015 ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand,” Ahluwalia told the Economic Times. “Cricket fans explored these two destinations as among the most preferred honeymoon or holiday destination.

“Many people booked their honeymoons in accordance to the match schedule,” he explained. “We saw the bookings for these destinations go up by 35%.”

But Indian sports fans are not only interested in cricket, according to Karan Anand, head of relationships for travel specialists Cox and Kings. “There has also been a shift in the interest for other sporting events like the Soccer World Cup or the Olympics.

“We see 10%-12% growth in arrivals to these destinations, when a major sporting event takes place.”

While some ardent cricket fans may link sporting tourism with honeymoons, Anand reported that alternative sports tend to attract groups of men or work colleagues on an incentive trip.

Regardless of the make-up of such groups, “many in the tourism industry have begun to realise the value of wooing these tourists,” said Abhijit Mishra, Director, India and Middle East, at KAYAK.

“Many of them fall into the high-spending category, stay longer than other tourist categories, are high-calibre and often stimulate other tourism,” he added.

Sourced from Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff