Sports tourism fueled by UK Games
Updated: 2012-07-02 00:50
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
A travel agency promoting a London Olympic Games-themed tour at an international travel trade fair in Beijing. Wu Changqing / For China Daily
With less than one month to go to the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games, luxury tourism packages to the United Kingdom have attracted interest from wealthy Chinese and corporate clients.
Sales in the sector have reached more than 100 million yuan ($15.87 million), according to Zhang Rui, vice-president of Caissa Touristic (Group) AG, the sole authorized Olympic Games ticket reseller in China.
The company has tied the ticket sales to luxury tourism packages.
"The closer to the Games we get, the more passionately people want to watch them," Zhang said. "We have received hundreds of inquiries and our sales are growing every day."
The popularity of the Olympic tours to London is one of the strongest for sporting tourism in the country since 2008 when China held the largest sports event for the first time in Beijing.
Zhang said luxury tour packages that include tickets to the opening ceremony on July 27 — at a price of about 200,000 yuan — were almost sold out.
Another ultra-luxury product, including flights on a business jet with 13 seats and priced at 8.88 million yuan, is being seriously considered by many customers, she added.
The travel agency rolled out a third batch of individual traveling packages to the UK. Travelers are now having more options to choose how to combine flight tickets, accommodation and sporting event tickets. The first round of individual travel packages was priced at 27,000 yuan. The second cost between 17,999 and 19,999 yuan.
Both of them sold well, Zhang said. Tourism packages include watching the Olympic Games, sightseeing, cheering teams and summer camp for students.
Corporate clients form a majority of the travelers joining the Olympics-related tours. The Chinese Olympic Committee organized a visiting team of about 1,000 people, according to Caisse.
As more Chinese contestants have entered the Games, an increasing number of Chinese sports fans have plans to visit London and cheer their favorite athletes. Tickets involving events with sports celebrities have sold the most. Track and field contests featuring Liu Xiang sold out in one day. Diving and table tennis are also popular among Chinese travelers.
Zhang said Chinese people have a growing interest in watching the Olympic Games and other sports at various levels. Tourism packages mixed with major sports events are proving to be popular with travelers not just for the sports element but also for the cultural appeal of destinations.
Getting visas for the UK has been challenging, at one time taking a minimum of 15 working days, said Zhang. But the British Embassy in China has set up a green channel for tourists for the Olympic Games that only takes five working days now, she said.
Chinese outbound travel has grown rapidly in recent years. Wang Yan from the National Tourism Administration said that in 2011 outbound tourism amounted to 70.25 million "person times". The number was 57.39 million in 2010.
Now, 146 countries and regions have become outbound destinations for Chinese residents. Of them, 113 countries and regions can be visited by group tours.
In comparison with the heated sales of Caissa, other tourism agencies have received a rather cold response from the market, largely due to rising costs of flights and hotels.
"Because the reselling ticket terms were exclusive, we did not design tour packages to the UK during the Games," said Li Mengran in the marketing and public relations office at Beijing UTour International Travel Service Co Ltd. "But we are offering post-Games packages to visit the UK."
Zheng Juan of Jiahua Travel Agency in Shandong province told China Economic Herald that the cost of tourism packages to the UK, even those unrelated to the Games, went up significantly as the price of flight tickets and accommodation increased.
The total cost for each traveler's trip to London from China is estimated to be about 60,000 yuan. It received a cold reception from high-end customers, Zhao Qing of China International Travel in Jiangsu province told Nanjing Daily.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org