It was not until a few years back when tourism industries worldwide started looking forward to sports events to attract tourists. The list of host countries of many such events is tangible – South African tourism saw a boost during FIFA World Cup 2010, India recorded an upsurge in arrivals during Commonwealth Games in October 2010 and UK is already looking forward to 2012 London Olympics as an opportunity to uplift its looming tourism.

The year’s first major sports tournament, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 that begins on February 19, is scheduled to be held in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, with most of the matches, including the final, to be played on the grounds of India. Travelers and Cricket fans worldwide get a good, long chance to tour India during this period of ICC Cricket World Cup that ends on April 2.

The tournament also gives travelers an option to visit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, to do so travelers have to make sure they visit the countries directly, and not through India, as according to the new rules for multi-entry visas to India, a tourist must be outside India for two months before a second visit.

While visa norms would have taken much of travelers’ time to decide on their itineraries across the three nations, the tour packages for all the matches to be played in India are almost sold out, according to the travel partners of the ICC.

Besides the semi-finals and the final matches, most of the travel packages for India are sold, media reported.

The response has been great. Most of the inventories for India matches, semi-finals and finals have already been sold. We have kept some inventory to be offered later, Rajiv Duggal, chief operating officer of TUI, one of India’s leading outbound travel operator, was quoted as saying by PTI.

Travel operators are gearing up to cash in on the travel interests around the Cricket World Cup by offering special travel packages that include hotel stay, air travel, meals, match tickets and transfers in India.

Tourism experts foresee the period between February 19 and April 2, when the tournament will happen, a major plank for India to showcase its tourism spots as India will be in international spotlight during the sports event.

We are also getting a lot of inquiries and bookings from international travelers from Middle-East, Singapore, Africa and Hong Kong, Mayank Khandwala, co-founder of Mumbai-based Cutting Edge Events said.

Online travel services providers, including MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip, have also recorded increase in bookings for air tickets and hotels ahead of the Cricket World Cup.

We are not promoting any packages for the Cup. However, we have seen a massive jump in air tickets and hotel bookings done on our website, Tarique Khatri, Cleartrip Vice President Business Development said.

He said, Cleartip has recorded a 100 per cent jump in air travel and 120 per cent jump in hotel bookings on its website for February 27, compared to the same date last year. India will play England in Bangalore on the same day. According to Cleartrip, a similar pattern in bookings has been observed on other match days.

The travel business overall is growing and the World Cup is giving a boost to it, he added.

Traveling to India for Cricket World Cup? Check out this travel guide to the Indian cities hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 matches.