World / 4 September 2018, 09:30am / Clinton Moodley
The recent Fifa World Cup in Russia is proof that sports fans are not shy to fork out thousands of rand on flights and accommodation to see their favourite teams in action.
Sports travel has taken off in a big way - whether people go to compete or watch a match, everyone wants a piece of the action.
Nicky Bell, the Edusport Travel and Tours director, describes the sports travel phenomenon as “travel arrangements that are packaged together for a major sporting event”.
And with the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan and the Cricket World Cup in England and Wales next year, more South African travellers are expected to fly across the world to see the games.
Bell, whose company curates sporting itineraries for South Africans, says there is a huge demand for travellers who sought bespoke sports travel-tour packages.
“Sports travel is very specialised. Many people save for years to have a chance to watch their favourite teams play in a match. It is sport that draws them to a destination,” she says.
“We have noticed an influx in sport travel bookings recently. While people get to watch the matches, they also get to see a place and experience its cultural and historical offerings.”
Among the popular sporting events were the English Premier League, Grand Prix, Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
Bell advises travellers who are keen on a sports travel trip to seek advice from a reputable travel agent.
“Always research the agency you want to use. We hear so many sad stories about people who have paid for their trip, only to find out that their money had been taken by scammers.”
Seeing the sights
Whether it’s cycling in Italy, playing soccer in Russia or tackling other heavyweights in a game of rugby in Europe, sport has a way of exposing sportsmen and women to interesting travel experiences.
Cyclist Zee Ismail, 43, from Cape Town, grew up cycling and he never imagined his passion would take him across the world. He recently returned from a cycle trip in the Dolomites, a mountain range in Italy.
“I love riding in the Dolomites. I try to go as often as I can. Normally I would fly to Venice via Dubai and drive through the countryside to a place called Cortina d’Ampezzo. This Italian town allows me the option to cycle in the direction of Slovenia or Austria,” he says. Some of the places he has travelled to include Jordan, London, Germany and Lake Garda in northern Italy.
And with his travel experiences, have come many valuable insights.
“I have adopted the ‘live like a local’ concept wherever I go. When I am in Europe, I buy local produce to make my own meals. I usually get a few sandwich ingredients from a store and assemble it at a tourist spot. It’s calming and very cost effective,” Ismail says.
Jockey Anthony Delpech, who spends months at a destination, says he always made time to see the sights in the country he was visiting.