Only 500 take official World Cup tour

 

RUGBY:FEWER THAN 500 people will make the 48-hour journey from Ireland to New Zealand on official tour packages for this year’s rugby World Cup.

Two thousand Irish supporters travelled to Australia by similar means for the 2003 tournament at the height of the Celtic Tiger, while almost 15,000 went to Paris for Ireland versus France in 2007.

The recession has dissuaded similar numbers from travelling, with tour guide estimates predicting less than 1,000 Irish fans in total making the trip from Dublin in September and October. For those not willing to take up prearranged deals, tickets can still be purchased on irb.com.

Numbers, however, will be boosted by the significant contingent of Irish backpackers and emigrants already based in the Southern Hemisphere who will make their way to New Zealand.

Paddy Baird, managing director of Killester Travel, stated the decrease in those travelling eight years on is largely due to the increased prices being charged for accommodation.

“There was a much better value for hotels in Australia but we are still taking around 200 people – who see this as a trip of a lifetime,” said Baird. “In 2003 at least 2,000 travelled to Australia (across all official travel agencies) for a three-week trip including two Pool games (against Argentina and Australia) and the quarter-finals at a cost of around €4,000.”

The full official package, with an extra game included, now costs €6,950.

This coincides with repeated claims that some New Zealand accommodation and hospitality operators are price gouging.

“Some of the smaller operators are going, ‘Well, this is our opportunity, we’re going to take advantage here’,” IRB chief executive Mike Miller explained on a visit to World Cup venues this week. “There’s no legislation. You can’t stop them. The trade organisation really doesn’t have any sanctions against them except trying to get them to see it’s not in their interests or the country’s.

“For the most part things are fine, but there are some people taking advantage and it’s very disappointing.”

The Irish Times reported last October an English tourist was quoted NZ $1,600 (€864) for a one-night stay at a bed and breakfast in Auckland for a minimum 10-night stay during the tournament, while the Hilton Hotel in Auckland was reported to be charging NZ $1,700 (€919) a night with the same conditions attached.

Miller conceded the IRB expect a 30 per cent decrease in profits from this World Cup, with an estimated 85,000 overseas supporters (20,000 from Britain and Ireland) expected in comparison to the 350,000 who visited France in 2007.

“That’s a massive hit,” said Miller. “We came here for rugby reasons rather than financial reasons. I think it was the right decision . . . but I think people would be reluctant to come back to a small market in a short space of time.”

Miller went on to indicate that New Zealand will not be granted joint host status with Australia in future bids.

Killester Travel, as official tour guides, are taking approximately 200 supporters on several deals, starting from €3,250 for the Campervan, tickets and flights deal up to their “Albatross Package”, which costs €6,950.

This includes flights from Dublin to Auckland, on September 13th and returning October 12th, with five match tickets for Ireland’s three Pool games against Australia, Russia and Italy, along with both quarter-finals, where Declan Kidney’s team could potentially feature, in Wellington on October 8th and 9th. Internal flights, transfers and excursions are also covered, while accommodation is primarily in three-star hotels.