Messi mania propels financial frenzy for tickets and hotels
Published: Jun 13, 2023 11:17 PM
Lionel Messi Photo: VCG

Lionel Messi Photo: VCG

The visit to China of renowned football superstar Lionel Messi has seen him "trapped" in a Beijing hotel. Chinese football fans' enthusiasm was ignited to a new level on Tuesday, leading to increased demand for match tickets and boosting hotel bookings.

Chinese short video platform Kuaishou unveiled the first exclusive preview of an interview with Messi during his China tour on its livestream platform on Tuesday evening. Messi finally made his appearance after 30 minutes of anticipation from the eager audience.

In the video, when asked about the UEFA Champions League final, Messi responded by saying, "I watched it and I thought it was a competition played at a very high level."

Messi's appearance lasted only about 50 seconds, including his response to the host's question.

Still, the entire livestream, which lasted for less than one hour, garnered over 190 million views.

On Wednesday, Messi is set to make an appearance on online marketplace Taobao's livestream platform. Media reports said it will be the only opportunity for him to interact with his fans during his visit to China.

Rates for suites at the hotel in Beijing, where Messi and other Argentine players are staying, soared to 8,738 yuan ($1,216) and were fully booked on Monday. The rate on June 15, the day of the game, rose to 12,888 yuan, according to media reports.

Data released by travel platforms show that hotel bookings in Beijing for the night of the match are five times higher than usual, and most luxury hotel bookings in Beijing's Chaoyang district where Messi is staying are up 30 times.

There was even a fan who mistakenly booked four hotels in an attempt to see Messi, resulting in a total expenditure of over 10,000 yuan.

The ticket prices for Messi's and the Argentine national team's upcoming match in China are comparable to those of the World Cup, ranging from 580 yuan to 4,800 yuan.

Ticket prices in Indonesia, which Argentina will visit to play a match, are lower than half of the ticket prices of the team's China tour.

According to previously announced ticket prices by an Indonesian Football Association official, Erick Thohir, tickets for the match in Indonesia range from 283 yuan to 2,009 yuan.

With a massive fan base, Messi holds significant commercial value. According to Forbes' list of the highest-earning football players in 2022, Messi ranked second with an income of $120 million and a brand value of $170 million.

Messi will lead the world champions, the Argentine national team, in a friendly match against Australia in Beijing on June 15. The Argentine superstar and his team have a huge fan base in China with an unprecedented level of interest in seeing the team play, making tickets for this match extremely difficult to obtain.

However, a training event scheduled for Sunday evening at the National Olympic Sports Center in Beijing was canceled after a large number of "outrageously passionate" fans waited outside the hotel. The team, particularly the stellar Messi, was "unable to leave the hotel," the friendly's organizers said to the media.

Despite the high ticket prices, two days before the match, there were still fans expressing hope on social media about buying tickets. 

"I haven't been able to purchase a ticket up until now, and this may be the only opportunity in my lifetime to see Messi. The price is no longer as important to me," a fan wrote on Sina Weibo.

"Messi's visit to China is very meaningful for fans, as this is probably the last time he visits as a professional football player, and the first time that the Argentina national football team has visited China since claiming the World Cup," said a fan of Messi, noting that this visit is an important part of his long-running passion for Messi and team Argentina.