Sports TravelTicket arrangement an area of opportunity for travel agencies and package providers.

Chinese sports travel market growing fast, but faces barriers in securing event tickets

European football leagues are the most popular sporting events for Chinese travellers.
European football leagues are the most popular sporting events for Chinese travellers. Photo Credit: SidorovStock/Getty Images
Sports travel is a sector that is expanding rapidly in China, with the market expected to grow by 25% to 30% over the next three years, and reach RMB 1.5 trillion (US$221,000 million) by 2020.

However, despite the increase in demand and purchasing power, the difficulty in securing tickets to events poses significant barriers for travellers – making ticket arrangements an area in which travel agencies and package providers have a critical role.

These are some of the findings in the ITB China Travel Trends Report from a survey of 300 Chinese outbound travel agents and buyers of sports travel products. The report is a yearly publication commissioned by ITB China and conducted by international consulting and research company, Kairos Future.

The study reveals sports trips are typically built around big sporting events. The opportunity to watch global sports stars perform live in important games is one the main factors attracting travelers. This on-site exciting experience is at “the very core of a sports trip, no matter if a traveller is there to participate or to watch.”

Other key findings:
-There is a clear trend towards customised “ala carte” packages with travellers picking add-on experiences. These may include activities that bring them closer to a sport, team or sports stars. Yet, despite the demand there are few packages on the market today that meet these needs.

-Stars are a key factor in attracting travellers to attend sports events. Many are opting to attend overseas events to see their favourite stars or teams in action – presenting a significant market for side events to bring fans closer to the players.

-Local activities are the most important component for Chinese travellers going on a sports trip, according to the travel agents surveyed. These include experiences that are not sports-related.

-Seventy-two per cent of the respondents say sports travellers primarily go in groups of friends, but families with children is a segment on the rise. This means an increasing demand for child-friendly activities as part of the trip.

-The most popular sporting events are the European football leagues in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Apart from these, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship are expected to be the top events among Chinese sports travellers over the next couple of years. NBA basketball and World Cup football are also firm favourites.

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