Q&A: Sports travel

Australians have always been mad for sports in any form, from swimming to rugby. But selling travel to sports events can be more complex than it might first appear. travelBulletin sat down with Paul Ramsay from Travel and Sports Australia (TASA) to get the low-down on how agents can sell these bucket-list experiences.

Is there much interest among Australians to travel to watch sport?

Sports and events travel is very popular. We’ve been in the sports and event business for over 32 years and every year builds on the last. It’s a standalone market that’s very specialist. People might be willing to book flights to America themselves, but when it comes to sports and events, they still want to use a travel agent.

What destinations are most popular for sports travel?

Most of our business for domestic sport comes from the Australian Open, the Melbourne Cup, the AFL Grand Final and the Formula 1. When it comes to overseas travel, people go to the UK for Wimbledon, Royal Ascot or the English Premier League, and to the US for the Masters and the NBA. And every four years we also have a huge demand for the Rugby and FIFA World Cups.

What sort of travellers are going to sporting events overseas?

We tend to see a lot of travellers in the 45-55 year-old and above range wanting to travel to see the US Masters, Wimbledon, and Royal Ascot. In the last four years though we have seen a big increase in young people travelling to watch the English Premier League or the NBA. Live streaming has definitely had an influence, as well as social media where they can engage with players.

Do people tend to travel just for sport or do they combine it with other activities?

Years ago a family would plan a holiday in line with school holidays, and they would decide to go to Disney in Orlando or California and as a secondary activity they might see an ice hockey, baseball or basketball game. These days we are finding that if there’s a really good weekend with a lot of big games they will plan the trip around that fixture.

What should an agent be mindful of when creating a sports travel itinerary?

Sports and events travel is complex, mainly because of the difficulty in securing tickets to premium events. It’s essential to do your due diligence on who you are sourcing the tickets from. Particularly with big events in the US and the UK, lots of legitimate looking but unscrupulous sites will pop up and offer you good deals. We’ve heard of horror stories where a client turned up to a game with what they thought was a legitimate e-ticket but they were turned away and we had their agent ringing us asking if we could secure a ticket for them. Make sure that the site you are buying from has an approved contract to sell and distribute tickets to that event. You can buy through us at TASA because we are approved contracted sellers for most events.

The other thing to be mindful of is timing. Sporting tickets start at a certain price and as demand outstrips supply, prices will increase. Try to secure tickets as soon as the fixtures for that sport are released. At TASA, we will purchase tickets in advance to popular events so that we have enough for the demand. Tickets are the hardest thing to secure — procure them first and then you can bundle airfares and accommodation and other experiences.

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