The Indian Premier League is as known for cricketers and their prowess on the field, as for the extravaganza and hoopla off the field.

With the current IPL seasonstarting on Saturday, cricket fans, not only within India but also overseas, are pouring in as always. Travel agencies are reporting a spike in bookings at locations where IPL matches are to be played.

Extended holidays Karan Anand, Head, Relationships, Cox and Kings, said the agency saw 15-per cent rise in hotel and flight bookings compared with last year. Anand said, it being the summer vacation season, travellers are clubbing IPL matches with long holidays. Around 5 per cent of the people travelling to Mohali for the matches have extended their tour to Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and nearby colder regions to escape the summer heat.

Neelu Singh, Chief Executive Director, Ezeego1, a travel start-up, said apart from Indians, there has been a rise in the number of foreign tourists who are extending their stay across India, to be part of the cricket fever. “Delhi, Kolkata and Mohali are attracting a lot of tourists within and outside India because of easy connectivity to places in North and North-East India ,which are preferred holiday destinations for summer,” she added.

Absence of one of the most successful teams, the Chennai Super Kings, which is facing a two-year suspension from IPL, has not had any impact on the travel or hospitality business, says the industry players.

Amaan Kidwai, Hotel Manager,Chennai, ITC Grand Chola, which was the hospitality partner for CSK, said, “We will miss all the buzz and excitement associated with having the teams staying with us. However, our business remains good as we have a full calendar.”

Hospitality giants are also using the opportunity to gain visibility by partnering with regional teams. Recently, AccorHotels and Delhi Daredevils signed an agreement which grants Novotel exclusive hospitality partner status for IPL 2016.

Arif Patel, vice-president, Sales, Marketing and Distribution, India, AccorHotels, said the partnership gives the hotel access to the team and player’s social media page. The company will leverage that to increase the visibility of the brand. Apart from travel and hospitality, demand for cricket merchandise has risen as well. According to a Flipkart spokesperson, the demand for cricket gear doubled during the month of March. Close to 50 per cent of the demand came from cricket bats during T20 World Cup. With IPL season and summer vacations coming up in April and May, the company is expecting similar demand in the next two months.

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