India’s proximity to World Cup host, sports events in England make Russia top travel destination

India’s proximity to World Cup host, sports eventRich Indians are flocking to the FIFA World Cup in Russia, unfazed by a spurt in airfares and hotel rates. Their love for the spectacular event, proximity to this year’s venue and two major sporting events in London around the same time have made Russia a top vacation destination this summer. “We have seen an increase in people travelling to Russia during this period.

Airfares and hotel rates have definitely gone up by at least 20% due to increase in demand for the World Cup, but this hasn’t dampened demand,” said Karan Anand, head of relationships, Cox & Kings, one of India’s oldest travel agents. “We have also seen a 10% increase in last-minute bookings to Russia, and expect this to continue, and even peak closer to the final stages of the tournament.” A six-day, seven-night stay in Russia, including airfare, starts from Rs 3 lakh, said Anand.

According to Ixigo, an online travel marketplace, Russia has recorded a 23% month-on-month increase in flight searches from India during the tournament. The growth has got a further boost by Russian initiatives such as visa-free entry for people with World Cup tickets, from 10 days before the first game to 10 days after the last game. Ixigo cofounder Aloke Bajpai sees a 25% rise in bookings in coming days. Russia was selected in 2010 to host this year’s World Cup. The month-long tournament, which began on June 14, will be held in various Russian cities such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

The country has reportedly spent $14 billion on the event, making it the most expensive sporting extravaganza in its history, and is preparing to welcome millions of visitors. A total of 3.43 million people had watched the 2014 World Cup in stadiums in Brazil, while over five million from across the world saw the matches from the so-called fan parks where no entry tickets were required. There are 11such parks in Russia.

But the event this year is attracting more Indians than in the previous editions in Brazil and South Africa, said travel company executives.

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