World Cup mania: Indians say Namaste London louder than ever

Arun Nayal

The cool climes of London are a major attraction for Indians during summer. This year, tourist interest for the destination has intensified with the ICC Cricket World Cup starting in London on May 30. The British High Commission in India estimates as many as 80,000 Indian fans will travel to the UK to watch the tournament this month-end, a figure corroborated by visa services agency VFS Global, which has received around 1.32 lakh visa applications for the UK in March and April this year for travel in subsequent months.

This figure is far higher than the number of Indian football fans who turned up in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World cup. FIFA had said around 4,500 Indians got tickets to watch the matches. In fact, the figure is also much higher than the 25,000 Indians estimated to have travelled to Australia and New Zealand to watch their team in action at the last world cup played in February-March of 2015.

Travel industry executives pointed out that grounding of Jet Airways has led to a 15-20% rise in airfares to the UK, but it is unlikely to dampen the spirits of travelling fans. For instance, an average Delhi-London return airfare has increased from Rs 60,000 to Rs 75,000 since April 17.

The fares on London route are up 15-20% since Jet’s grounding. But it is unlikely to have an impact on world cup travellers. If you have managed to get a ticket for an India match, then you wouldn’t mind paying a little extra, said an executive with a leading travel firm. Jet operated 35 weekly flights from Delhi and Mumbai before suspending operations on April 17.

London is connected through direct flights from major Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad by flag carriers Air India and British Airways. While Air India operates daily flights to London from Delhi and Mumbai, British Airways flies 49 weekly flights from these five cities. Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways also carry passengers to London with one-stop flights. Tour companies are also offering customised packages for fans who have managed to secure tickets. For instance, people are coming to us with a wishlist of cities they want to travel during the tournament. We are booking their air travel, hotel stays and sight-seeing. There are several other places in and around England, like York and Edinburgh, which are very popular, said Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C), Yatra.

A British High Commission spokesperson said around 5 lakh Indians received visas for travel to the UK during calendar year 2018 which was up 10% year-on-year. We are seeing a very busy summer, with tourists from across India applying for their visas, the