For many in India, cricket is religion. Cricket is followed by at least half the population of the world, cricket lovers wake up at odd hours in the night keeping alarms to catch the action and some make it a point to be at the amongst the crowds cheering their team at the grounds.
It is the second most popular sport in the world. Popular in countries such Asia, Australia, England, etc. it is slowly expanding its reach to other countries. With the introduction of the 20-20 format and participation by more countries, it has gained more fans.
Planning to cash in on this trend from the Cricket frenzy nation India is former cricketer, Mumbai and Hyderabad Ranji player Vijay Mohan Raj’s Hyderabad-based travel agency Uniglobe Sameera Travel. The company of Vijay Mohan Raj who is also a qualified cricket coach for National Cricket Academy, the training wing of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has launched www.cricketconsultants.com to promote its initiative of Cricket Tourism.
Uniglobe Sameera Travel is the Hyderabad associate of Vancouver (Canada)-based Uniglobe Travel, the world’s largest single-brand travel franchise company with an annual system-wide sales volume of $5 billion. It has drawn up ambitious plans to foray into cricket tourism this year.
From 5-day long test matches to 50 overs a side one day matches to the newest avatar, the Twenty 20 format, the game of cricket has certainly come a very long way. And it has thrown open a new area of Tourism -- ‘Cricket Tourism ‘. Uniglobe Sameera Travel is the first in India to cash in on from Cricket Craze and chalked out plans to introduce ‘Cricket Tourism’.
“The objective behind introducing this new category of Tourism is to connect every cricket connoisseur and professional directly or indirectly with the game,” disclosed Vijay Mohan Raj. Being a Ranji cricketer himself, he has been contemplating to come out with something connecting his first love and profession for a quite long time. The 25th Anniversary of his travel agency Uniglobe Sameera Travel seemed as an appropriate occasion to introduce the same. We have already launched www.cricketconsultants.com to promote its proposed initiative, he announced.
The game of cricket has a known history spanning from the 16th century to the present day, with international matches played as early as 1844, although the official history of international Test cricket began in 1877. Since 1909 since foundation of ICC--International Cricket Council till today it has spread from England, Australia and South Africa to many countries. There are 110 cricket playing countries in the world. And all of them are members of ICC. On the last account ICC has 12 Full Members that play official Test matches, 36 Associate Members, and 60 Affiliate Members. That is a good number, says Vijay.
The associate members who are 36 in number are countries where cricket is firmly established and organized but do not qualify for Full Membership. Surinam recently promoted. Some of these Associate members are countries like Argentina, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Fiji, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, UAE, USA, Zambia and others.
Affiliated members are countries where the ICC recognizes that cricket is played according to the Laws of Cricket. There are 60 Affiliate Members. Some of these include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Cyprus, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Russia, Seychelles, South Korea, Sweden and others.
Though cricket is played in so many countries, only a handful of 12 are only Test Playing countries. So we want to undertake cricket team exchange programs and organise tournaments in those countries. We initiated a dialogue with International Cricket Council (ICC) member countries to take the initiative forward. We expect our programs to help some of ICC’s associate and affiliate members to gain experience and achieve test match-playing country status,” he added.
Cricket remains a major world sport in terms of participants, spectators and media interest across the world. This gives Uniglobe Sameera Travel a unique opportunity. Nobody is as qualified as we are, says Vijay Mohan.
The ICC too wants to produce more national teams capable of competing at Test Level. It has expanded its development program. Its efforts are focused on African and Asian nations; and on the United States. Today about 10 to 12 nations only play test matches. More teams are capable of playing. They need more exposure. We can undertake exchange programs so that each other team can learn from others, Vijay informed.
From Test matches to One Day International, Cricket's newest innovation is Twenty20, essentially an evening entertainment. It has so far enjoyed enormous popularity and has attracted large attendances at matches as well as good TV audience ratings. And it is going to grow to new heights.
Cricket is an opportunity. We want to use it to our advantage as I mysef am a Cricketer-turned-traveler, nobody is better off to launch Cricket Tourism than we are. We have already undertaken a trip of cricketers to Bangladesh much before it emerged test playing nation. The response is very encouraging. There are many upcoming cricketers who need exposure and there are many countries which also need some experience players to play with the gain international recognition.
In the recent past two international cricketing events in South Africa and England also prove a fact that fans also travel far and wide to witness the matches.
This is a new category. I don’t want to keep any targets. It will be unfair on my part to forecast any revenues nor on the market potential as of now. From current level of Rs40 crore we want to reach Rs100 crore turnover in next three years. Besides Cricket Tourism, we also are foraying into temple, medical, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), leisure and adventure tourism in a phased manner, informed the cricketer-turned-travel agent.
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