Every four years, one of the biggest events on earth, the football World Cup, ensures the host nation benefits a windfall in tourism receipts. We are in the middle of the tournament already as Russia is experiencing a sports tourism boom – soccer fans flood in to support their teams competing in the football World Cup. According to the latest figures from ForwardKeys, which predicts travel patterns looking through 17 million booking transactions a day, flight bookings for arrival in Russia for the FIFA World Cup (4th June – 15th July) are 50.5 per cent ahead of where they were at this point last year. In addition, many Russians are staying at home for the tournament and are not going on holiday as usual. Outbound bookings from Russia are 12.4 per cent behind.
A notable feature of the booking profile is that the current upsurge has its peak around the opening matches and, as of now, there is a limited advancement in bookings after the group stages of the tournament. However, once the outcome of the group stages become clear, a subsequent surge in bookings is possible for the latter knockout rounds, as fans come back to support their teams.
World Cup ticket holders must obtain a FAN ID, which grants them visa-free entry into Russia between June 4 and July 15 (the date of the final) and requires the holder to exit Russia by July 25, presumably allowing anyone coming for the final to remain in Russia and take a holiday afterwards. However, deeper analysis of the booking data, focussing on the number of nights spent in the country, reveals that the average length of stay is 13 nights, but overnight stays fall off to normal levels very sharply after the final. This suggests that whilst fans are planning to use the World Cup as an opportunity to visit Russia, their real interest is in football, much more than it is in Russia. Forward bookings for ‘overnights’ in Russia for the whole visa-free entry period are 39.6 per cent ahead of the equivalent period in 2017.
There are very substantial uplifts in visitor levels from countries that have not qualified too. Of the countries that have qualified, those with the greatest uplift in number of visitors to Russia are, in order, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, South Korea, Mexico, UK, Germany, Australia, Egypt and Peru. Of those that have not qualified, those with the greatest uplift in number of visitors to Russia are, in order, the USA, China, Hong Kong, India, UAE, Paraguay, Canada, Turkey and South Africa.
It is also apparent that there are other beneficiaries of the mini tourism boom to Russia, for example: Europe’s major airports, as over 40% of visitors during the World Cup will arrive via indirect flights. The list of major hub airports with the greatest number of passengers to Russia, is headed by Dubai, with forward bookings to Russia 202 per cent ahead of the equivalent period last year. It is followed, in order by Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London Heathrow and Istanbul.
Travel booking site MakeMyTrip (MMT) is seeing over 400 per cent growth in tourism to Russia for the FIFA World Cup 2018. The duration of the football World Cup coincides with one of the busiest travel times for Indians who are holidaying during the summer season. The surge in bookings for Russia this year also corresponds with multi-city travel itineraries that holiday goers have picked on MMTs platform including cities like Volgograd, Saransk, Sochi apart from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
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