Safety and accommodation concerns are likely to have a big impact on the number of Australians travelling to World Cup events next year.
THE year ahead could prove to be a frustrating one for sports-minded travellers. Sporting events have been a huge tourism driver for several decades but circumstances appear to be conspiring against travel next year.
A shortage of accommodation will prevent many Australian fans from attending the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand this time next year, while safety concerns are expected to stop many people from travelling to Cricket World Cup fixtures in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from February to early April.
Warren Livingstone, the founder of tour company the Fanatics, says the Cricket World Cup is likely to attract fewer than 1000 Australians, compared with the 10,000 who travelled to the West Indies for the 2007 event.
"Traditionally, the Cricket World Cup is a very big event but because it's in India this time there's a bit of uncertainty about it from a safety point of view," he says. "Everybody is very scared about India at the moment."
He says the West Indies was a "sexy destination" for the 2007 Cricket World Cup and Australian fans were prepared to wear the expense of getting there to experience it.
Livingstone, who also represents rugby tour operator We Love Rugby, says circumstances are also difficult for the Rugby World Cup next September.
He estimates 6000-7000 Australians will travel to New Zealand for the event, whereas about 15,000 travelled to the 2007 Cup in France.
He says a lack of accommodation is keeping travel numbers down.
"It's not like they don't want to go," Livingstone says. "There's just physically not enough accommodation. That is going to restrict how many can go.
"Accommodation is a bigger issue than tickets. Tickets are usually the hard thing to get and that's what determines the value of a sports tour."
Livingstone says We Love Rugby, which has co-chartered two cruise ships to be based in New Zealand for the event, already has about 1200 bookings and will sell out its capacity well ahead of the event.
A "tent city" similar to the one that housed thousands of Australians at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa earlier this year is not considered an option - because it will be too cold.
Tourism New Zealand estimates 21,000 Australians will travel to the World Cup - three times the estimate of Livingstone. The general manager of Adventure World's Rugby World Cup 2011, Nigel Adams, is unsure about total numbers but says
his company expects to take more than 3000 Australians to Cup games.
The company, a big player among four official travel agents selling Cup packages in Australia, is also relying on a cruise ship charter for accommodation and is selling packages in three stages: for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. Adams says Adventure World has 7500 tickets for Cup games and has so far sold about 20 per cent of its packages. Entry-level cabins on the cruise ship have already sold out, while "top end" packages are selling fast.
Adams agrees accommodation will be the key factor determining how many people travel to New Zealand for the Cup. He has heard talk of people flying in and out, allowing them to watch a game without needing accommodation. He says New Zealand's relatively small stadiums also create restrictions, with the largest venue capable of holding about 60,000.
"Compare that to the UK or Europe, where you're talking 90,000 seats in the stadiums, or to our own stadiums here," Adams says. "In Melbourne, you're talking 100,000."
Two-thirds of the seats have already been allocated to officials, sponsors and official travel agents, which "doesn't leave a lot of seats for the ballot system".
Adams believes many Australian fans are waiting to see whether they have any luck in the next ticket ballot in November.
For those who are unsuccessful in the ballot, the only option for securing semi-finals and finals tickets will be by buying packages through official travel agents.
"I think the sales season will really take off, if not from the end of this year, then from February," Adams says.
Delhi warning urges caution
THE Australian government has issued a strong safety warning for people travelling to India for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi from October 3-14.
A "high degree of caution" warning has been issued for the host city. "Australians in New Delhi should be aware that the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment where there is a high risk of terrorism," the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) notice says.
Travellers should register their travel plans and contact details with DFAT and check their travel insurance carefully.