When India take on South Africa in its first world cup fixture at Southampton on June 5, there will be a sea of people dressed in blue to cheer the team. The one-and-a-half-month long cricket carnival kicks off from May end and cricket fans and corporate groups will be heading to England to watch all the action.
"Our rough estimate is around 80,000 Indians may travel for the World Cup. This is based on previous India-UK travel trends and the numbers of Indians travelling for previous tournaments. We do not have a global estimate for how many people in total will travel but is extremely likely that Indians will be the highest - given the size of the market and passion for sport in India and the great flight connections between India and UK," British High Commission, New Delhi said in an email response.
The demand is the highest for India-Pakistan match at Old Trafford in Manchester on June 16 and also for the final at Lords on July 14. The cricket world cup final coincides with two other major sporting events - Wimbledon men's tennis final and F1 grand prix final at Silverstone in England. Other matches attracting India-Australia and India-England.
"We expect the demand for UK as a destination to increase by atleast 35 per cent in summer keeping in mind the rush for the World Cup," said Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox & Kings.
Thomas Cook said travel demand is led by corporate segment. " We have a series of confirmed groups across industries travelling for the World Cup with the June 16 India-Pakistan match a mandatory inclusion," said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holiday), Thomas Cook India.
Over 515,000 Indians visited UK in twelve months ending September 2018. Arrivals declined 2 per cent in that period but are expected to see a boost with the world cup. Indians are taking self drive holidays and train rides to visit attractions in Northern England and Scotland, say sources in travel industry. The suspension of Jet Airways operations has pushed up fares (Jet flew five flights daily between India and UK) but has not dented demand, they added.
Demand for visas is higher than usual because of the World Cup, with 3,500 applications received each day. " Our visa services partner VFS Global has already processed over 200,000 visa applications in India during January-April," the High Commission said.
The UK Visa and Immigration department has been carrying out marketing campaigns across India since February to encourage more Indians to travel to the country. From end of April of to the end of tournament it will implement second phase of campaign - encourage late applicants to use priority visa facility. "This will get a decision in five working days (rather than standard 15) and means everyone can get a decision in time for the match they want to see," the High Commission said.