The 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), has got off to a flying start with demand for matches, especially those that are played over the weekends, attracting a huge volume of bookings from travellers who intend travelling to watch their favourite team in action. The IPL has given a new dimension to the concept of sports tourism, which is still in its infancy. Early indications suggest that hotels and service providers benefit from this rush in travellers who combine a holiday with an IPL match thereby enriching their holiday experience.
Cox & Kings has seen a 30% rise in the number of travellers booking their holidays where they combine a match experience with local sight-seeing. There has also been a spike in women-only travellers who have booked their hotels and sightseeing options. This has grown by 20%.
The IPL matches are being played in Mohali, Jaipur, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Interestingly, the tourist places within 250 - 300 kms of the host cities have also observed an increase in the inflow of tourists. Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Aurangabad, Alibaug, Agra, Mysore, Puducherry are the destinations that are much in demand.
Nek Chand Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Pinjore Gardens and High court museum are the top sights for the cricket tourists in Chandigarh. Similarly, the architectural wonder, Mehrangarh, that sits over the blue blanket of mystical houses in Jodhpur is where most cricket fans are flocking to after attending the matches in Jaipur. Whilst in Mumbai many have booked a quick getaway to Alibaug for a dip in the sea, the fans going to Delhi are queuing up to see the Taj Mahal in Agra. Mysore palace and the quaint French lanes of Puducherry are also on the list of a must-see for those going to Bangalore and Chennai respectively.
Hotels are cashing in as this is the low season for many of the city-specific hotels and their weekend occupancies have climbed from a dismal 30% to 80% during the match days. IPL offers a great opportunity to boost domestic tourism by attracting both domestic and inbound tourists. Similar to the UK where sports tourism enjoys a focused approach, India can harness its potential to further boost the sports tourism sector, given the popularity of cricket in the country.