By LISA KLEIN
Attending a major event for a favorite sport is a bucket list item for many, and specialty travel agencies can make it happen and then some.
No matter the sport, impossible-to-get tickets, VIP seating, nonstop concierge service and an invite to the most exclusive parties can be had with help from the experts.
“Everything we do is on a custom basis,” said Duane Penner, vice president of sales for the U.S.-based agency Roadtrips. “We can bring a lot of expertise to the conversation.
“But if this is your sports travel dream and you’re creating this for you and your family, you should have it your way,” he said. “We believe that creates the happiest memories.”
Best of the best
Consumers flock from all over the world to see the best athletes compete in championships and marquee events – what Mr. Penner calls “pinnacle events.”
“People want to make sure they see Wimbledon if they’re tennis fans,” Mr. Penner said. “If you love tennis that’s just the ultimate. If golf is your thing, the Masters is huge. You may have watched it on TV, and now you want to walk those hallowed grounds of Augusta National.”
The Super Bowl and baseball World Series are big in the states, while Grand Prix, the Olympics and the World Cup are huge draws in any location.
“The events that happen every four years tend to have the most cachet and demand,” Mr. Penner said. “The big quadrennial events are really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If an event is held somewhere, it probably won’t be there ever again.”
Although the Olympics showcases a lot of sports that most people don’t follow regularly, when the event comes, the whole world is watching and travelers like to go for the buzz.
The anticipation around the World Cup is even bigger, and soccer fans are already planning their trips for the matches in Qatar at the end of 2022.
“The World Cup is the biggest event in the world,” Mr. Penner said, adding that the Qatar version will have all of the normally spread-out stadiums in one city so that fans can go from match to match with ease. “For soccer fans it’s like they’ve died and gone to heaven.”
With any big event, there are those looking to attend because they are fans of the sport or a particular team, and some who just want the experience. But, whether consumers are following their team or just in it to check the event off of their list, they are in for a ride.
“One of things that’s a little bit unique is when you combine travel with a passion for a sport It’s quite an experience maker,” Mr. Penner said.
The World Cup is one event that attracts the real fans, with entire countries pausing to get into the game.
“There has to be a word beyond ‘super fan,’” Mr. Penner said. “They are so passionate and on the global stage they feel very deeply. Even in a luxury hotel they are face-painted and ready to go.”
Being a part of that cultural scene is a big reason why consumers travel for sporting events.
The Monaco Grand Prix is another major draw for global travelers with its jet-set vibe of glitz and glamor.
“Some people are very avid fans and have a particular team they follow,” Mr. Penner said. “They are very knowledgeable. Other people are just like, that is an iconic event and at least once in their lives they want to be in Monaco for the Grand Prix.”
Past the goal line
The glamor does not stop at the event itself, either.
Travelers get the VIP treatment at every turn with Roadtrips – staying in the best luxury hotels with private transportation to and from events, tickets and front-row seats that they would not be able to procure themselves, and a customized travel itinerary to make the most of their destination outside of the sport.
The company also arranges behind the scenes activities that get fans even closer to the action.
“When the World Cup was in Brazil, we arranged for pro-club players to give soccer lessons on the beach,” Mr. Penner said.
“We can have people be the guest of a Formula One team and they get to walk through their garages and get a Q&A with the drivers,” he said.
Fans can attend the same party as the Prince of Monaco or at the venue where the winning team will be celebrating. Plus the buzzy atmosphere also attracts professional athletes from other sports and celebrities from the entertainment world, giving travelers an opportunity for countless fun brushes with fame.
“It’s the atmosphere, it’s the excitement, it’s the experience,” Mr. Penner said. “With most sports, you probably see more detail of the action when you watch it on TV, but you get none of the atmosphere.
“Being part of all that – I felt the whole thing and experienced the whole thing – there’s no replicating that,” he said. “You create a lifetime memory doing that.”
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