100,000 Chinese tourists are descending on Russia to watch the Fifa World Cup
Soccer fans from China snapped up 40,000 tickets to the Fifa World Cup in Russia, even though the national team missed out on a place
China might have failed to make it through to the 2018 Fifa World Cup, but thanks to a relaxed visa policy and relative proximity there will be no shortage of Chinese soccer fans in Russia for the big event, which kicks off on Thursday.
According to figures from the tournament’s official website, Chinese devotees of the beautiful game have so far bought over 40,000 match tickets – about 8,000 more than English fans – putting them eighth on the list of international buyers.
When China made its one and only appearance at the World Cup – in 2002 in South Korea and Japan – between 40,000 and 50,000 fans are estimated to have travelled with the team, while back home the tournament garnered 7 billion television views, according to state media reports.
As many as 100,000 Chinese tourists are expected to travel to Russia during the festival of football, which runs from June 14 to July 14, according to China’s largest online travel agent Ctrip.
Not surprisingly, flight bookings between China and Russia are up by about 400 per cent from the same period of last year, while hotel bookings for Moscow are up 10-fold, it said.
Wang Yong, a Shanghai-based football fan, told the South China Morning Post that when he travels to Russia next week it will be the realisation of a lifelong dream.
“I have been thinking about going to watch the matches in the host country for the past few World Cups, but never made it because they were too far away,” the 30-something said.
“This year it is near, and Russia is offering visa-free entry for people who have game tickets, so it is very convenient.”
Wang said he would spend five days in Russia, and had a ticket for the opening game between the hosts and Saudi Arabia.
“Chinese football fans are really excited about the World Cup,” said Tammy You, from Ctrip’s public affairs department.
And even though the average price or a hotel room in Moscow – especially those close to Luzhniki Stadium, which will host several games including the opener and the final – has trebled from last year, Chinese fans were undeterred, she said.
“Even the most expensive hotels, close to the stadium, have almost sold out.”
Among the travel agent’s biggest spenders was a group of high school pupils who paid 120,000 yuan (US$18,800) apiece for a package that includes, among other things, first-class air travel, a stay in a luxury hotel and a ticket for the final.
The largest single booking was made by a customer in Xiamen, southeast China’s Fujian province, who spent 850,000 yuan on a World Cup package, You said.
According to the official 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia website, as of Thursday, more than 2.4 million tickets had been sold for the event, of which almost 872,000 had gone to Russian fans.
The United States took the top spot for foreign sales with 88,825, followed by Brazil (72,512), Colombia (65,234), Germany (62,541), Mexico (60,302), Argentina (54,031), Peru (43,583), China (40,251), Australia (36,359) and England (32,362).