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Kicking a winner: sports tourism booming globally, reveals Expedia study

Sporting events globally continue to be a massive boost to tourism, according to an Expedia survey which has revealed a staggering 68 percent of travellers around the world have planned holidays around sporting events at least once.

According to the research commissioned by Expedia Group, Brand Expedia and Hotels.com, of that 68 per cent of travellers, 70 percent of female and 67 percent of male respondents confessed to planning their holidays around their favourite team.

Showing their dedication, nearly half (47 percent) admitted to actually changing holiday bookings to make sure they don’t miss a match.

“We’re excited to be releasing the first cross brand Expedia Group study, looking at how the most passionate fans in the world travel.” said Adam Jay, President of Hotels.com Brand. “We know football fans look forward to booking trips early to avoid missing out on the action. By offering fans great options on flights, accommodation or activities across our Expedia Group brands, we want to make sure the only stress you experience is the nail biting 90 minutes of the football game.”

Home of Messi, Barcelona tops the list of most desired destinations to watch live football, as voted for by nearly a third (30 percent) of global fans. Camp Nou in Barcelona is heralded as the absolute football Mecca too, with 15 percent wanting to rally behind FC Barcelona. The UK falls close behind with 20 percent of respondents around the world stating London and Manchester as their chosen destinations. In fact, 11 percent want to visit Old Trafford to watch a game.

Football fans dedication is unquestionable. The study revealed two thirds (67 percent) of respondents have been to an away match and one in ten were even willing to travel 11+ hours to watch their team in action.

Footie fans are also serious about their match companions, with ex-professional footballers topping the celebrity wish list. Former Brazilian striker Ronaldo is the most desirable celeb to join fans travelling to a game (17%), with David Beckham coming in a close second (15%). Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo battle it out to be the number one current footballer that travellers would like to buddy up with on holiday, with the data revealing that one fifth of global respondents choose them as a travel companion.

When booking accommodation for away games, more than 50 percent identified proximity to the stadium as a must have and see 5-star hotels as the equivalent of traveling like a football superstar. Other key deciding factors for accommodation include free breakfast (35 percent), how close it is to the city/town centre (34 percent) and 24 hours check in (31 percent).

Many see travelling for football as an opportunity to explore a new city. Aside from watching football, 62 percent prioritise sightseeing when visiting someplace new. Shopping is the second most popular past-time, with more than half hoping to bag a bargain. Wanderlust becomes wanderlunch with food playing a meaty role when travelling. 46 percent search out restaurants, while over a third (39 percent) prefer sampling local delicacies of street food markets.

When it comes to booking, fans don’t wait around. Over a third of respondents (40 percent) confirmed they book their travel for a trip as soon as their team’s fixtures are announced, with women (46 percent) being more organised than men (38 percent).

Some were even willing to lie to their other half with just under a third (32 percent) of respondents admitting they had pretended to book a romantic break to watch a football match. We’re often more loyal to our football team than family – 25% of people would miss a birthday, 12% would flake on parent’s evening and 11% would skip a wedding to make a game.

Expedia Group’s own data revealed that on the day of football fixture announcements, flight and/or accommodation bookings can increase by up to three times the usual average. Hosting the UEFA Champions League Final is especially beneficial to tourism; Expedia Group data highlighted a 30% increase in searches of Madrid during the lead up to the 2019 Final compared to the same timeframe in 2018.

“Football breeds some of the most passionate fans, so it’s no surprise many are willing to travel halfway around the world to catch their favourite team in action”, said Adam Jay, President of Hotels.com Brand. “The spike in bookings around UEFA Champions League fixture announcements – especially the Final – shows fans are willing to plan holidays around their favourite sporting events. That’s why many of our brands, such as Brand Expedia and Hotels.com offer incentives like Expedia’s bundle prices on package deals and Hotels.com Reward scheme, to ensure our customers benefit from early planning.”

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