When the opening whistle of Arsenal’s match against Manchester City sounded, Grandma Liu, 79, sat at Emirates Stadium and cheered for the team with tens of thousands of British fans. The "Granny Liu the Gunner", who has tens of thousands of fans on Weibo, is still full of enthusiasm for football, although she is white-haired. As a fan who has been fond of Arsenal for more than 10 years, it is not the first time for Grandma Liu to visit the British competition site. In 2014, accompanied by her son, she witnessed Arsenal winning the FA Cup and participated in the subsequent celebration parade.
It is not uncommon for China fans to "cross the ocean" for their beloved team. The TV broadcast of European leagues was introduced to China earlier, including Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and other European leagues, which gathered huge fans. Nowadays, under the circumstance that "fans", a group with high user viscosity, gradually have certain consumption power and outbound travel is becoming more and more mature, the new model of "watching games+traveling" has mushroomed and spread rapidly in China.
Subsectors have developed rapidly.
Sports industry is an industry with great growth potential, while tourism industry is a booming sunrise industry. After the two industries are upgraded, it is "customized sports tourism". As a kind of leisure tourism, it has developed rapidly under the background of residents’ consumption upgrading in recent years. According to the data of the World Tourism Organization, this form of tourism is growing at an annual rate of 14%, which is the fastest growing sub-industry in the global tourism market, exceeding the overall growth rate of 4% to 5% of the tourism industry. There are also data predictions that in 2020, the global sports tourism market is expected to exceed 400 billion US dollars.
With the development of the Internet, "customized fan travel" has become a more accurate and more suitable vocabulary for the needs of the times. As soon as a tourist or a sports fan lands in the local area, the consumption generated is almost all tourism consumption. Tourism is the biggest converter, sports competitions gather people, and tourism transforms people into commercial value.
Most traditional travel agencies’ "game-watching tour" is nothing more than adding a ticket to the traditional travel route. This design obviously cannot meet the in-depth experience needs of die-hard fans. Die-hard fans pay attention to the service of the club and the event itself, such as the team’s cultural experience and the experience of watching the game. They are more willing to focus their consumption on improving the travel experience, rather than the situation where traditional outbound shopping consumption dominates.
Nowadays, many fans will buy tickets, customize travel routes and services through a wide range of professional travel service providers such as Ali Travel, Ctrip and Caesars Travel. At present, service providers that are perpendicular to the market and specialize in the business of "sports+tourism" are also favored by more and more people.
Lu Yiming, the founder of hardcore sports, called this kind of behavior of fans going to the stadium to watch the game and realize their dreams "pilgrimage". As the only company in China that is perpendicular to the pilgrimage of European football and has only this business, hardcore sports has cooperated with offline fan associations of many European clubs. Online, they also cooperate with some professional sports content production platforms and media community platforms to attract online users who pay attention to the events and surrounding information to watch the games. Both online and offline resources have a good consumption conversion rate.
Tourism itself is a service, and in the subdivision of football travel, travel service providers perpendicular to the market will take the service user experience as the top priority. The service packages launched by some travel agencies include themed products such as the father-son tour of football feelings and the honeymoon pilgrimage of couples.
Enthusiastic fans have a blue ocean.
The concept of tourism has great inclusiveness, and the boundaries of tourism become more vague and inclusive with the development of society and the upgrading of consumption. In this context, the integration of football, even sports and tourism is deeper, its scope is wider, and the boundaries between time and space are more blurred. However, due to the different core attraction, fan tourism shows several characteristics different from other tourism activities.
First of all, the boundaries of fan group differences are more obvious. The particularity of fan travel is that before watching the game and visiting the stadium, you have already had a love and professional understanding of this club. Compared with other tourism activities, sports tourism can be said to have certain "threshold" restrictions. There is no such detailed group division in traditional outbound sightseeing tourism, and such group differences will lead to a situation that fan tourism does not match the traditional tourism industry structure.
Secondly, the fans are more sticky. For most fans, watching football is an endless activity, so fans’ stickiness to the club will increase and they will pour deeper feelings into the club as a tourist destination. The increase of user stickiness means lower price sensitivity, which is similar to "fan economy". More and more fans hope to realize their dream of "small but beautiful" with the help of professional travel service providers.
For consumers, tourism content and consumption content have not only stayed in the previous sightseeing and leisure, but also integrated more experience, participation, interaction or deeper feelings, especially for those fans who have devoted their feelings to the club.
"At present, the development of domestic mainstream tourism products is still in its infancy, and the products mainly take ticketing as their core competitiveness. For some fans who yearn for a high-end tour, they may prefer to go to a certain venue for a live experience. How to embrace the blue ocean of’ fans+tourism’, which has not yet been developed, tourism service providers need to continue to explore. " Wu Geng ‘an, deputy director of the Sports and Leisure Research Institute of Huaqiao University, said.
Win-win cooperation in tourism and sports
From the perspective of supply side, existing travel agencies have explored and upgraded the tourism products on the supply side. The traditional game-watching tour only has sports events and tourist routes, which will involve some sightseeing and sports industries. However, in terms of integration experience, it is still necessary to improve the service and experience of tourism products in combination with new consumer demand.
Rich product design is a direction to promote the development of the whole sports tourism industry, so that specific sports tourism projects can be driven through the core event IP. At present, many China sports travel service providers, including Yaner Sports, try to reach cooperation with foreign clubs to provide fans with the opportunity to enter the training ground and witness the star training at close range. In the future, meeting with the stars, having dinner together, or holding a wedding at the stadium and letting the children be caddies holding hands when the stars appear are all goals that fans can achieve, and they are also the added value that most sports event tourism companies have yet to explore.
Wu Geng ‘an said: "On the whole, with the change of tourism market demand and the maturity of tourism industry, fan tourism has also ushered in new opportunities. The improvement of fans’ demand for travel experience and the corresponding development of more abundant fan travel experience projects by suppliers all play an important role in promoting the development of sports tourism. "
In addition, China’s huge fan market has attracted the attention of the world’s popular fan destinations. In December 2016, the British Tourism Board cooperated with the Premier League, and launched an activity of "Looking for Premier League Ace Fans" on China’s official broadcast platform Xinying Sports. The winner finally got the opportunity to go to the UK to experience the football theme tour. As far as cultural attributes are concerned, football is a "regulated language", which can be used and communicated internationally. The reason why the Premier League is accepted by the whole world is precisely because of this feature. Therefore, compared with other cultural industries, football and even sports industry has an advantage-natural internationalization characteristics and a natural international market. Premier League and other football leagues have strong international influence and international market.
Tourism industry and football match complement each other. Tourism needs to develop the international market and rely on event attractions as a selling point. Uefa europa league has different characteristics, gathered fans’ resources, and has a wide range of international communication effects. Its influence and attention are enough to make the host city an international tourism destination. Therefore, whether football builds the business model of sports through tourism format, extends and realizes the value of sports industry, or tourism attracts tourists through the great influence of football matches, enhances the value of tourism industry, and realizes the industrial integration of football, sports and tourism.