THE football World Cup may be over but another sporting extravaganza looms large as the West Indies prepares to host the ICC Cricket World Cup, which starts on March 11 2007, for the first time.
England’s travelling support is expected to be the biggest ever to the region and will coincide with peak holiday traffic over Easter.
Operators and agents familiar with the Caribbean will appreciate the logistical problems of inter-island travel and lost luggage, but add an estimated 100,000 visitors as 16 teams contest 51 matches at nine venues, concerns over room stock, flight availability, transport and new stadiums, and the challenge facing the islands becomes apparent.
In March, there were problems supplying cement for stadium construction but the shortfalls have been recovered and, as International Cricket Council president Percy Sonn said: “Barring the Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad [set to host four warm-up matches] everything is on track.”
ICC venue development director Don Lockerbie emphasised the importance of the official venue tour beginning in mid-November, when a team of stakeholders will check all aspects of the stadiums and training grounds. “It’s one thing to build a stadium and another to know how to operate it,” he said.
Maximising tourism potential was pivotal to the event’s design and, at 47 days, there is ample leisure time. Applications for the 800,000 tickets have flooded in from 124 countries and upwards of 15,000 Brits will descend on the islands, many mixing cricket with holidays. And strong contingents from Scotland and Ireland are anticipated in St Kitts and Jamaica for their respective group games.
All seats for the showpiece final in Barbados on April 28, including the top-price $300 and $200 party stand allocated through the public ticketing process, have been sold. The Jamaica and St Lucia semi-finals in both categories are also heavily subscribed and only hospitality and tour packages are available for the final.
The last four Super Eight games in Barbados are close to selling out of public tickets, with Antigua and Grenada showing similar demand. “It’s an overwhelming vote of confidence in the Caribbean’s ability to hold such an event and it’s an indication that it will be well attended,” said World Cup commercial manager Stephen Price.
Ease of travel is crucial to the tournament’s success and the four main internal carriers, Air Jamaica, BWIA (Caribbean Airlines from January), Caribbean Star and Liat, have joined forces to ensure this is the case in a collective bid for the inter-island transport contract, a collaboration that will hopefully extend well into the future.
A single visa entry system has also been ratified. This means the nine host venues – Jamiaca, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent, Barbados, St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia and Dominica – will be treated as ‘one domestic space’ from January to May, enabling freer movement and eliminating customs and immigration headaches.
New arrangements will include a standardised immigration form at point of entry, no stamping of passports thereafter and compliance with security vetting. All fans must still carry passports for identification. It is a courageous move, but one that could prove a catalyst for the much-vaunted single regional economy.
Enhanced security is an important consideration, especially at a time of heightened international awareness, and an £8 million plan involves 400 regional police and army personnel, improved intelligence sharing networks, and a high-powered Interpol team to be mobilised in January.
- Travel Weekly’s Caribbean supplement, to be published on November 3, will include a complete guide on how to book for the Cricket World Cup.
Chester-based ITC Sports has a long record in the Caribbean and expects to take more than 800 clients, circumventing the possible vagaries of internal travel with a range of upmarket celebrity-led cruises on Sea Dream.
The 10-day Graham Gooch Scholarship Cruise around Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica and St Kitts, starting at £6,230, is 90% sold, while the 18-day Calypso Crown voyage featuring Barbados, St Lucia and the Grenadines, including Super Eight, semi-final and final tickets, is also proving popular at nearly £12,000 per head.
Two and three-week land-based escorted tours in Barbados are also available covering the Super Eight and final. Head of sport Helen Tabois said: “We decided against escorted tours in St Lucia and concentrated on what we do best: tailor-made trips focusing on the four and five-star market in Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados.”
Australia and South Africa also have strong cruise ship interest. Kuoni’s David Higgins said: “Our clients prefer their feet on dry land and we’ve pitched our programme well with packages and tailor-made. We have good flight allocations too, which are starting to fill up and Antigua and St Lucia are selling well.”