Religiosity towards cricket among Indians is a well-known fact, but when coupled with their enthusiasm to travel, the result can well be a historically significant phenomenon.
No wonder then that ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 host countries- Australia and New Zealand- began padding up for this grand event well in advance, aiming to leverage the opportunity to increase their presence in Indian outbound tourism market.
In fact, New Zealand has identified India as one of the key strategic markets and for the first time ever the country launched India specific brand campaign targeting various segments in 2014.
It expects a 33% growth from Indian market triggered by the upcoming World Cup season.
"The World Cup will improve our profile as a tourism destination. For the tournament, we expect 5,000-10,000 if India does well", said David Craig, Tourism New Zealand General Manager for Asia.
Tourism Australia, on the other hand, is expecting about 5000-6000 Indian cricket enthusiasts and hopes to attract no less than 2 lakh Indians this year.
Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager, India & Gulf, Tourism Australia said, “In addition to the vast number of Indian fans anticipated to travel to watch the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the opportunities are expected to have a halo effect to encourage and drive future travel.”
In line with the expectations, two months ago Indian tour operators reported about 25-50% increase in the number of travel enquiries, and said that they expected the number to double as the countdown begins.
Faring well on the predictions, the Australian High Commission has disclosed that in the month of January the applications received for tourist visa was 37% higher than that of the same month last year.
It is a well-established idea now that major sporting events drive tourist inflow. But never before has India featured so prominently in the promotional campaigns of a tourist board as it is in the initiatives of both Australia and New Zealand.
To make the most of the attention and viewership that the month and a half long sporting event is expected to receive in India, both the hosts have been lining up robust promotional campaigns and tie ups to increase visibility and facilitate easy travel.
Four days before the mega sports event, i.e., ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, we look at the major initiatives taken by Trans-Tasman countries to lure as many Indian tourists as possible and also pave the way to make India a major source market beyond the event.
Visa and Connectivity
A joint visa for Australia and New Zealand, valid between January 26 and April 5, 2015, has been introduced for cricket fans.
In addition, New Zealand will also provide a visa on arrival to the travelers with an existing Australian visa. This was decided under the Trans-Tasman agreement signed by both World Cup hosts.
In fact, people holding almost any type of Australian visa can avail the benefit of visa on arrival to New Zealand.
Furthermore, Australia has launched pilot programme for issuing online visa facility to Indian tourists on trial basis following a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Australia in November last year.
"India is one of the world's fastest growing outbound travel markets. This trial will make it easier for Indian visitors to apply for visas to travel to Australia,” Australia Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb had said while announcing the development during his visit to India earlier last month.
On the connectivity front, Tourism Australia has roped in several key airlines including Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Air India to promote attractive airfares during the event
In fact, Air India has been highlighting its direct flight to Melbourne as a selling proposition and has also come up with World-cup inspired menu to be served during flight in order to attract cricket enthusiasts.
Looking forward, Tourism Australia and Singapore Airlines have signed a three-year strategic marketing deal worth A$12 million to promote Australia in seven key markets, including India.
The agreement will see the two parties jointly fund a range of tourism campaigns and promotional activities in Australia's key inbound markets - Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, UK, Germany and China.
New Zealand, on the other hand, may seem to be at a disadvantage in relative terms since none of the domestic carriers fly directly to any of its cities, but that hasn’t affected its promotional campaigns.
Making the most out of the available resources, the tourism board has inked partnership with Thai Airways and Malaysia Airlines to be able to offer attractive airfares to Indian travelers.
Speaking about the agreements with the two airlines, Craig said, “We are very happy about our new partnership especially since it is open to travellers right before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. India is a priority emerging market in South and South East Asia and is central to the long term strategy of both Tourism New Zealand and the airlines.”
Engagement with Travel trade
To add to the strategic airline partnerships the two countries have also signed up a number of tour operators to provide a strong call-to-action and attractive packages for potential travellers to book their holiday.
Travel driven incentives, as Kashikar puts it, for employees and clients work extremely well when combined with sporting events as it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is sure to be regarded very highly by the attending delegates thereby adding substantial value to the incentive program objectives.
Tourism Australia has associated with Yatra.com to specially curate a portfolio of 30 travel packages showcasing the Best of Australia experiences for travelers planning their trip Down Under during the current & upcoming cricket season.
Also, the board has plans of hosting senior management of leisure travel companies to experience the destination and watch the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 finals at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, to encourage them to step up their sales of Australian holidays.
In order to boost Business Events during ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Tourism New Zealand, on the other hand, has tied up with six key travel agents to allow easy corporate visa processing for Indian business travelers.
More specifically, Tourism New Zealand tied up with Fanatic Sports to promote luxury cricket tours in December last year.
The official Travel Agents appointed to sell ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 packages are Cutting Edge Events Pvt Ltd, Fanatic, Sports Konnect, TUI-ICE.
In order to strengthen its position as a possible tourist destination alternative, the tourism board has aligned its first brand campaign in India with airline and travel trade partnerships.
During a trade event, Guldeep Singh Sahni, President OTOAI was quoted as saying that a significant surge in traffic is possible only if end consumers come to the travel agents with a request to visit a particular destination. That, he says, is the ultimate parameter to gauge the penetration of a given destination in the market.
Not quite surprisingly therefore, the two host countries have come up with a number of campaigns directed specially towards end consumers.
In October 2014, Tourism New Zealand launched its first brand campaign in the Indian market for the year 2014 – 2015 ‘Every day a different journey’ which is supposed to highlight diverse experiences that New Zealand offers to its visitors.
On the other hand, backed by consumer research which corroborates the new-age trend in India of people travelling on their belly, Tourism Australia evolved their marketing campaign, ‘There’s Nothing like Australia’ to include a strong focus on exceptional food and wine experiences ‘Restaurant Australia’.
Moreover, in order to make the presence felt, the board has enhanced focus on content and tied up with a number of media groups to create a sustained media presence for destination Australia.
However, these initiatives are not only restricted to national tourism organization. In fact, regional boards as New South Wales which ran the very successful ‘Jhappi Time’ in Sydney campaign in India has roped in former cricketer Ajay Jadeja to promote Adelaide, which is the battleground for the much awaited Indo-Pak match.
In addition, famous cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle will also be seen promoting Australia during the World cup season.
The story of celebrity cricketers promoting destinationst to Indian audience’s delight doesn’t end here.
Tourism New Zealand roped in former BLACKCAPS captain, Stephen Fleming to invite Indian corporate travelers for the mega sporting event.
Addressing a gathering of Indian corporates, Fleming said, “If there is one thing that is exactly the same between Indians and Kiwis, it is their love and passion for cricket. We got the opportunity to experience Indian hospitality during the previous Cricket World Cup and it is now our turn to amaze our guests from India.”
Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in Australia and Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin in New Zealand are the fourteen host cities and the respective tourism boards have left no stone unturned to keep them in the limelight.