Is Russia's winning bid to host FIFA 2018 a loss to UK tourism?

This article has been written by Sanskrity Sinha for IBTIMES.COM

Russia won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2018 and the tourism industry in United Kingdom has expressed disappointment as it had expected to tap the tournament's potential to boost tourism in the region.

Making the most of this honor, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has assured FIFA that visa norms would be waived for all foreign tourists with match tickets during the 2018 tournament.

The general perception in UK, which was one of the strongest contenders in the bid, is that the country dispelled the opportunity to host 2018 FIFA World Cup following a recent revelation by the British press (BBC and London Times) about cash-for vote scandal as a result of which two FIFA executive members were suspended and fined.

However, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said, "We go to new lands," in explanation while announcing the 2018 World Cup host in Zurich, Switzerland last week.

Amid all uproars, UK’s failure is being seen as a blow to tourism. “Tourists would have come to England ahead of the tournament to see potential match venues and host cities. Now these people will be travelling elsewhere, may be even far away to Russia,” Arunava Chaudhuri, a sports journalist, blogger and football consultant in Cologne, Germany said when contacted for his comments.

According to World Sport Destination Expo, which showcases sport tourism related products and services, sport tourism is the fastest growing sector in travel industry worldwide and it is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade.

The expo held in July this year in Johannesburg, South Africa reveled that sport tourism is likely to scale up tourist arrivals globally by 14 percent by the end of 2010, though nation-wise data showed striking variations.

According to Indian tourism ministry, Commonwealth Games that concluded recently in India fetched the country only a 9 percent increase in foreign tourist arrivals, which is much lower than it expected.

On the contrary, South African Tourism, the national tourism agency, recorded a whopping increase of 17.4 percent in global tourist arrivals in the first eight months of the year, following the FIFA World Cup 2010 held earlier this year in South Africa.

The disparities in the tourism of the two nations that hosted international sport events of equal fanfare could signal that staging a World Cup is not the only factor in driving tourist interest of a nation. Many travel experts maintain that tourism benefits of hosting a sport event are overrated.

"We are all obviously disappointed that England has been unsuccessful in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Despite this setback, the next ten years is full of sporting promise for England," James Berresford, chief executive of tourism body VisitEngland was quoted as saying in media.

Though the arrival of foreign tourists dipped by 2 percent in the first nine months of 2010, the next two years definitely look promising for tourism in UK. Prince William’s royal wedding in 2011 and the 2012 London Olympics as well as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in the same year will keep England in the international spotlight, Berresford said.

“World Cup is the chance to profile a country, like London is doing through the 2012 Olympics,” Chaudhuri added.

Moreover, a study conducted by VisitBritain, Britain's national tourism agency, in July this year concluded that contribution of tourism to UK’s economy could grow by over 60 percent by 2020. Looks like UK’s loss to FIFA World Cup 2018 bid is not really a “big” loss.

This article has been written by Sanskrity Sinha for IBTIMES.COM


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