India will fall under the sporting spotlight in October when Delhi hosts the 19th Commonwealth Games. With seven months before the opening ceremony, Breaking Travel News takes a look at preparations for the event. Mike Starling reports
There may be concerns about unfinished construction, power shortages and security but the Indian Ministry of Tourism is defiant that the 2010 Commonwealth Games will prove to be a huge success.
Since Delhi was named host city of the Commonwealth Games the amount of media scrutiny and outside negative opinion has been at the highest level for a sporting event in recent times.
But for a country with a population of more than 1.1 billion people, there is no doubt that the Games are a major landmark in its tourism and sporting history.
Some estimates state that more than 4.5 million domestic and 2 million international tourists will visit Delhi as a result of the Games. The figures may sound over-ambitious, but India has 500 million domestic tourists alone.
These positive figures are one reason why the Indian Ministry of Tourism is confident that the Games will prove beneficial.
Raj Kumar Sunani, assistant director of India Tourism in London, said: “The Games can herald a turning point for India. This is a great opportunity to showcase tourism and specifically the newly-developed products such as rural tourism and medical tourism.”
Speaking about Delhi’s infrastructure progress, Sunani added: “The Delhi Metro is world-class and we have a city and buildings to show to the world. Compared to the last five years, Delhi is so different because of the development.
“We are building a world-class infrastructure for the Games that will benefit India in the future. This event is forcing us to invest in a world-class infrastructure.”
(Right: Lotus Temple, Delhi)
A major area of concern is a lack of hotels rooms to accommodate delegates, media and sports fans. One person to agree with this concern is Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Baumgarten said: “India is a fantastic destination and has a huge domestic market. But although there has been an improvement in construction and airports, there is still an insufficient infrastructure network and not enough rooms.
“Some Indian newspapers say 240,000 rooms would be necessary for the Commonwealth Games, but there are only 90,000 available. What will happen is there will be a 120 per cent load factor for airlines and hotels and a shortage of capacity.”
In an exclusive interview with Breaking Travel News, Baumgarten was asked what advice he would give the Indian authorities to capitalise on the Games’ impact.
He added: “India will have to make a major marketing approach. You can’t just say come, because there is not enough capacity. You have to select your markets – that will be an interesting approach.”
Last month before the start of the field Hockey World Cup in Delhi, there were media reports of security threats at sporting events in India.
(Left: Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council)
Sunani was quick to ease fears and said: “India has taken so many steps for safety and security.
“There will be a tough security system for the Games in Delhi, no-one should have any worries about safety. The police, the Army and intelligence are fully involved for the security of the Commonwealth Games. Since the Parliament bombing in Delhi [in 2001] security has been very tough, safety is one of the biggest things for us.”
While the negatives will continue to raise alarm, one positive was a report published in the autumn of last year by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The firm revealed that the Games could create more than US$6 billion worth of business opportunities. Included in this amount is the estimated US$25 million in ticketing revenues.
As India continues to prepare for its biggest-ever sporting event, one legacy of the Games has already been realised with Delhi being named as host city for the South Asian Games in 2012.
With Indian Premier League cricket also to look forward to this month, it cannot be denied that India represents a wealth of opportunity for the sports tourism industry.
2010 Commonwealth Games in numbers
The Games take place in Delhi from 3-14 October 2010
Delhi is home to more than 14 million people
Estimated budget for the event is more than US$1.6billion
71 countries will participate
More than 6,000 athletes to take part
In 2010 Delhi is expecting 2 million foreign and 4.5 million domestic tourists
By the start of the Games, Indira Gandhi International Airport is estimated to have seen more than US$1.9 billion in upgrades
The Delhi Games Village will have capacity for 8,500 athletes and officials
17 sports will be held at six venue clusters and five standalone venues