Thomas Cook, the UK-based travel giant, is aiming to tap the Chinese appetite for English football with the launch of a series of new Manchester United packages.
The China Daily reports that the historic tour operator, which invented the package holiday back in the 19th Century, is now offering football tours to Chinese supporters. These are being exclusively sold by Thomas Cook China, a joint venture between Thomas Cook and Chinese conglomerate Fosun International.
The new “Old Trafford Match Break” packages include flights, hotel accommodation and match tickets, as well as a visit to the Manchester United Museum and a stadium tour of Old Trafford. Other options are available, including a VIP package that involves a meal at the stadium.
“With a fan base of more than 100 million, Manchester United’s popularity in China has no equal. Thomas Cook has been a partner to the club in the UK and Europe for over a decade and we are delighted to extend this exclusive partnership into China,” said Alessandro Dassi, general manager of Thomas Cook China.
Manchester United’s group managing director, Richard Arnold, commented; “Our partnership with Thomas Cook is a long-standing one, and we’re delighted it has been extended to China.”
The launch of Thomas Cook China comes at a time when Chinese tourism to the UK is booming; this year an estimated 250,000 Chinese nationals are expected to visit to the UK, with annual spending reaching more than GBP1 billion (US$1.2bn). A recent air service agreement has also paved the way for more direct flights between the two countries, and the current weakness of the British pound is expected to attract more overseas visitors.
The Manchester United package is one of a series of sporting offerings created by Thomas Cook China, with others focusing on Formula One, the Wimbledon tennis championships and horse racing.