This past year, we’ve seen some striking changes in summer travel trends. While traditionally favored destinations like the US, Canada, the UK, France, and the Mediterranean continue to attract a steady stream of vacationers, new regions are rapidly increasing in popularity. One reason for this shift seems to be the lure of global sporting events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. The World Cup, in particular, appears to offer a powerful draw to fans who want to see their team compete live and in person. For instance, after hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia saw a staggering 200% increase in popularity as a summer travel destination.
With 32 teams qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, it’s no surprise that the games attracted more than three million attendees. And when it comes to World Cup travel trends, as one might expect, there is a correlation between a country’s success and an increase in that country’s travelers. For instance, after Sweden made it to the quarterfinals at the World Cup for the first time since 1994, there was a more than 800% increase in Swedish travel to Russia. Similarly, because Brazil was a tournament favorite, the country saw a more than 1000% increase in travel to Russia. However, the country with the largest spike in travelers visiting Russia this summer was Mexico, whose team made it to Round 16 before losing to Brazil.
Another interesting travel trend this summer included spikes of World Cup attendance from countries that lost early in the tournament, such as:
There was even an increase in attendees from countries whose teams didn’t qualify for the World Cup, like the US and China, as US and China travel to Russia jumped 491% and 379%, respectively. Since this global event only happens every four years, we can assume that for these travelers to Russia, the desire to experience the World Cup outweighed even the hope of cheering on their favorite team to victory.
The travel booking habits for the World Cup are also intriguing when you consider both the number and diversity of the travelers and the complicated lottery process to purchase tickets. (This process is similar to the one that is implemented for the Summer and Winter Olympic games). The lottery process works in three phases:
Not surprisingly, there were small spikes in bookings coinciding with the ticket lottery sales windows, with 50% of bookings made within 90 days of the tournament start. However, the largest spike in bookings was during the week leading up to the tournament, accounting for more than 20% of bookings. This is an interesting takeaway for travel marketers that are looking to capitalize on the revenue opportunities made available during global sporting events like the World Cup and Olympics. Unlike the typical travel booking curve, which sees 50% of bookings made within six months of the trip, travel marketers need to optimize their campaigns for the 90-day window ahead of these events with a particularly aggressive push during the seven days leading up to the event.
Below are five additional best practices for travel marketers to consider in preparation for future sporting events:
To learn more about how major events impacted the travel industry this year, download our free report, Travel Index: Event Trends.