IPL 2: Travel companies eye South African safari

The IPL bandwagon is on its way to South Africa but the Indian spectator is unlikely to undertake the African Safari. Travel companies spoke to said the economic uncertainty has dampened the spirits of die-hard Indian fans.

Travel agencies are in the process of formulating special packages. They, however, hope to cash in on the World Twenty20 Championship to be held in England right after the IPL. The reason: Club commitment is no match for national fervour.

India’s loss is certainly South Africa’s gain. According to estimates, inbound tourism and hotel revenues were expected to surge by nearly 15% had the IPL stayed on in India. No doubt, the Proteas are pleasant hosts — everyone saw that during the World T20 championship in 2007 — but service comes with a price. Many firms are reluctant to formulate strategies but some are going ahead because ‘‘cricket sells”.

Kashmira Commissariat, head, outbound division, Kuoni India, talks from experience. ‘‘SOTC Sport Abroad was the official travel agent for World Cup in 2007 and the inaugural ICC T20, which India won in 2007. Our packages received a marvellous response. South Africa has been lucky for the Indian team. With packages starting from Rs 60,000 onwards for 3-4 days, we will offer various schemes during the IPL.”

Abhijeet Patil, CEO, Raja Rani Travels, begs to differ. ‘‘Running after cricket in these times is as good as chasing wild geese. We are not giving it a serious thought.” A top executive with another travel company, who didn’t want to be named, echoed Patil’s views. ‘‘Where is the ‘national spirit’ factor? In these tough times, why would an Indian fan go to watch an IPL match with teams made up of players from different countries. It’s not worth it,” he says.

England may have lost out on hosting the IPL, but fans are looking forward to the ICC World T20 which begins a few days after the IPL ends. Deepak Melwani of Prime Flyers is not offering any deals for the IPL. ‘‘Well, I’m going to England and I’m sure more people will come to me for flight tickets as they identify more with India than an IPL team. And it’ll make sense as we are the defending champs.”

Melwani is a member of the Cricket Club of India (CCI) and thanks to a partnership between the CCI and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), he’ll get tickets to games at Lord’s. Not everyone’s as lucky but the odds favour an India-Pakistan match to a Mumbai Indians-Kolkata Knight Riders encounter — given that both are being played abroad.

Shaikh Abdulla, manager, revenue generation, Akbar Travels, has got into action right away. Abdulla has decided to play the waiting card for the time being. ‘‘ Right now, people are more concerned about the elections, and their children’s exams. If the IPL gains steam, fans will be ready to spend. Therefore, we are looking to formulate a package for the business end of the tournament.” That will certainly make sense as the semifinals and final will be better crowd-pullers than mundane league games. ‘‘We received a superb response for the T20 World Cup in 2007.

The package was around Rs 70,000 for five days. This time the price of the package may be slightly low. Nothing has been finalised as the fixtures aren’t out as yet,” he says.

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