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Head of Travel Intelligence, Amadeus IT Group
Football is a sport full of irrefutable truths: to win is better than to tie, and to tie is better than to lose, as the late Vujadin Boskov would say. Gary Lineker will explain that football is a simple game where 22 men chase a ball and the Germans always win. And US citizens don’t like football. Or do they?
David Beckham played in the US league – as did Pelé back in the 70s – and the 1994 World Cup was held Stateside. But still football doesn’t make it to the top 7 list of favourite sports. And isn’t it obvious that you don’t like football if you stubbornly insist on calling it soccer?
But what if it actually wasn’t that obvious? We the “travelmetricians” at Amadeus, if you remember my previous post, are always keen to defy conventional wisdom through the use of advanced travel statistics. And what better time to dispel such a myth than just at the start of the World Cup, with yesterday's electrifying Brazil-Croatia match in Sao Paulo?
Let’s start with search data. As we saw in my first post about the World Cup, searches from Europe for flights to Brazil during the World Cup registered a sharp increase. The average number of searches per day for departures during the kick-off week of the tournament (three days before and after the first match, that is, from June 9 to June 15) was six times higher than the average number of searches per day for departures in May or August. From the US? The leap was even higher: the average searches per day for the same period was thirteen times higher. But we do know that an increase in searches does not necessarily mean that more people will actually be travelling to Brazil: our most recent study shows that in fact bookings from football-crazy countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain decreased, while the US surged.
For bookings from Europe to Brazil as a whole, the same study shows a 60% increase fueled mostly by Northern European countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany. But what about the United States? The hike actually reached 68%. And that’s compared to a 2013 which had already registered strong growth. This has led to the US being the largest intercontinental market in terms of bookings to Brazil during the World Cup.
So maybe Americans will still talk about soccer, but with travel data on the table, it sure looks like they are finally coming to like real football. Will that translate into a successful run in the World Cup? Bookmakers don’t seem to think so, and I’m afraid there is little travelmetrics can do about that.