ICC T20 World Cup 2021 | India vs Pakistan | Dubai
Aneesh Phadnis Shally Seth Mohile & Shine Jacob |
An India-Pakistan face-off on the cricket field has the country hooked at the best of times. Now, with the opportunity coming after an extended period when the possibility of watching live cricket in a social setup had all but vanished, the excitement hit another level.
So cricket fans dropped everything to fly out to Dubai or gather at cafés and cinemas across the country to watch the Men in Blue take on arch rival Pakistan in their opening T20 World Cup encounter in Dubai on Sunday evening.
A spokesperson for PVR Cinemas said they saw 85-90 per cent occupancy at 75 of their cinema halls, which screened the big match on Sunday evening. PVR, which bagged the rights to screen the World Cup, is offering the experience in 35 cities. Like elsewhere, demand was strong in Maharashtra, too, which finally allowed cinema halls to reopen with 50 per cent capacity last week.
“We have received overwhelming response from our cricket fans to attend the live match screenings,” said Gautam Dutta, CEO of PVR Ltd.
Cafés, too, got into a sporty mood on Sunday, curating menus, offering discounts on drinks and putting up giant screens for their customers.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm among diners, and our restobar brands — London Taxi, Silly and Blah — have seen a huge spike in reservations,” said Pawan Shahri, founder of Chrome Hospitality, which runs these restobars. “We got good response for the Sunday match, and were completely sold out across locations. We have put up a 15-foot LED screen for the match at London Taxi, and have also offered some deals to our customers,” Shahri added.
Not to be left behind, corporate India is using the T20 World Cup as a branding opportunity, while some are rewarding top performers and clients with match tickets.
Booking.com, which is the official accommodation partner for the World Cup, said it has modelled the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai into a cricket pavilion to give one lucky family a cricket-themed, stadium-like luxury experience. The “T20 Pavilion”, as it was called, was available for a one-night stay (check-in on October 24 and check-out on October 25) for Rs 6,666 “in honour of all the sixes hit during the World Cup,” said Booking.com. And it was sold out within four seconds of the booking opening on October 16, the company added.
However, for those determined to get the stadium experience in the stadium, there were charter companies and travel firms that lined up with options. Riding on the World Cup, both charter and travel firms did brisk business, as did hotel chains in Dubai, which have seen an influx of guests from the Indian subcontinent, besides other parts of the world.
“While the demand was not high for the Indian Premier League (IPL), we have flown around 35 passengers in seven charter flights to Dubai in the last few days, specifically for the India-Pakistan match,” said Rajan Mehra, CEO of Club One Air, an air charter company that operates out of Delhi, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam. “The customers included a mix of businesspersons, celebrities and high net worth individuals (HNIs). We anticipate the demand to grow as the Indian team is expected to perform well,” he added.
The average charter flight rate is Rs 30-40 lakh for a Delhi-Dubai return trip.
A spokesperson for Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) said both its properties in the United Arab Emirates, Taj Jumeirah and Taj Dubai, are fully booked for the next two days. Taj Dubai is also hosting an event around the announcement of the new IPL teams.
Vacation home startup Vista Rooms, too, said all its ten properties in Dubai are fully booked for the next couple of days. “This is in any case peak season for the region and so the rates are about 20 per cent higher than normal,” said Pranav Maheshwari, founder of Vista Rooms.
Travel services companies Thomas Cook and SOTC have reported demand from corporate entities for the big India-Pakistan match. “We have three mid-size MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) groups that have travelled for the match on Sunday,” said Meera Charnalia, senior vice president and group head (MICE), Thomas Cook India.
S D Nandkumar, president and country head (B2B and foreign exchange), SOTC Travel, added. “We have two corporate groups, including a leading company in the paints and realty sector, who have travelled in Dubai. They have taken their business partners to watch the World Cup. Dubai Expo 2020 is also on their agenda.”
Originally scheduled to begin on October 20 last year, Expo 2020 was delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With Dubai hosting the World Cup weeks after it kicked off the World Expo, for many it’s a perfect — and long-awaited — opportunity to mix business with pleasure.
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