The Caribbean's Cricket Debacle

How many ways can a major worldwide sporting event go wrong? Cricket World Cup may have managed them all, with even a murder thrown in for good measure. The eight Caribbean nations staging World Cup matches are now singing the blues after the predicted sell-out crowds have failed to appear. Tourism for the Cricket World Cup has been a disappointment thus far

The seven-week Cricket World Cup 2007 is set to end on April 28. There were high hopes for the Caribbean as a perfect draw for cricket fans from around the world. India's cricket team was the cash powerhouse behind the event, but India was surprisingly knocked out in the first round. This led to a huge number of cancelled bookings. For example, in Barbados, the Carnival Destiny cruise ship had 80 percent of its cabins booked for the event, but with the elimination of India, bookings dipped to 40 percent.

It didn't help when headlines covered the Kingston hotel room murder of Bob Woolmer, the coach for Pakistan's cricket team.

Allen Chastanet, prime minister of tourism for St. Lucia, told Travel Agent that he was disappointed with the planning of the event, noting that many tourism board members were left out of important brainstorming meetings. "There's no question that it has been a disappointment and will cause the Caribbean to lose a lot of money," he says. "Life is funny sometimes. There was this fear that the World Cup was going to overwhelm the destination and now no one is coming."


What Went Wrong?

The three year build-up to the World Cup saw local governments building expensive new stadiums and hotels. Hoteliers were asked to prepare for a crush of extra visitors; some were skeptical about scheduling such a huge event during the Caribbean's peak season, but World Cup Cricket organizers said they wouldn't think of staging the event during hurricane season.

There have also been grumblings about the general ambience of the events. Some islanders have complained that buttoned-down restrictions on food, alcohol and musical instruments have deprived the cricket matches of a sense of Caribbean high spirits.

"Regular visitors shied away from Barbados in March, thinking the island would be too crowded with cricket fans," says Alvin Jemmot, president of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association and general manager of the Divi Southwinds Beach Resort. "Our hotel is doing well at 72 percent occupancy, which is three percent above last year," he said. But according to Jemmot, other hotels on Barbados aren't faring as well; occupancy is down 20 to 25 percent island-wide.

Jemmot also notes that typically visitors stay on Barbados 10 to 14 days; this has shifted to shorter stays, creating a "peaks and valleys" booking situation. Barbados' lower-end hotels have been filling up while higher-end properties have had fewer bookings. Jemmot points to high cricket match ticket prices being a problem. Before, a ticket for a cricket match could be had for $25 to $30; World Cup Cricket tickets are selling for $100.


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