India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of numbers of match tickets bought.
It's Russia calling for all football fans.
Buoyed by the response of visa-free entry of World Cup ticket holders, Indian tourists are flocking to Russia this summer. This year, till now, there has been a 23 per cent increase in flight searches for destinations in Russia.
According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA's official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.
US tops the list with 16,642 tickets bought by fans followed by countries like Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Germany, China, Australia and India. At the time of filing this report, 4509 Indian fans are travelling to Russia to watch the biggest soccer tournament in the world.
“The bookings for FIFA travel opened in November 2015 and we have close to 2000 fans travelling with us to Russia for FIFA,” said Mayank Khandwala, president, Cutting Edge. According to Khandwala, fans are spending anywhere between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 20 lakh for their trip.
Khandwala credits the benefits announced by the Russian authorities for the surge in travellers. “All ticket holders need to hold a FAN ID together with a valid match ticket in order to enter the stadiums hosting matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The FAN ID provides visa-free entry to Russia for foreign citizens who have purchased 2018 FIFA World Cup match tickets. Such fans will be able to enter and remain in the country during the period that starts ten days before the first match and ends ten days after the last match,” added Khandwala.
The FAN ID also entitles holders to use certain free transport services, including inter-city trains and public transport in the host cities.
However, it is not just the official ticket sales agent who has seen surge in travel to Russia.
“With the FIFA World Cup 2018 around the corner, football lovers from all across the world are gearing up to watch it live in Russia. We have witnessed an increase of over 60 per cent in bookings made to Russia, compared to the same period last year,” said Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C), Yatra.com.
Travel companies also claim there are more number of people travelling to Russia than those who travelled to Rio de Janeiro for FIFA 2014. “During the last world cup in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, we had experienced 15% rise in travelling to Brazil. The trend continues for the upcoming world cup too with 20% increase in travel to Russia,” said Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings Ltd.
Cox & Kings has designed special tours which take the travelers to the Russian cities such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi which will host the matches. Fans making it to Russia for FIFA include a mix of solo travelers and family travelers.
Interestingly, data shared by travel search engine ixigo reveals 48 percent Indians travelling during the tournament, are planning to travel solo, followed by 16 per cent with families and 12 percent as couples. “With June being one of the best times to visit Russia, travellers are opting to stay for a duration of 8.5-10 days to be a part of the football extravaganza while also discovering nearby places,” said Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and CEO of ixigo.The data also shows that around 73 percent travellers are planning to travel to Moscow for the opening ceremony at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, which will also host the final, followed by 16 percent and 4 percent to St. Petersburg and Rostov respectively.