Travelers don’t often view south Florida as a “consolation prize.”
With tropical weather, beautiful beaches and plenty of visitor-friendly fun, the Miami area is always a prime vacation destination.
But Ohio State football fans were hoping for a trip to the BCS title game in Pasadena, Calif., until their team lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Now, the Buckeyes are headed to Miami and the Orange Bowl, where they will play Clemson on Jan. 3.
Will fans follow?
Probably, but not as many as would have gone to Pasadena, said several local travel agents.
Ike Reynolds of Reynolds Travel took two motor coaches full of fans to the game in Indianapolis.
“People were clearly down after that loss,” Reynolds said.
“I think people are going to take a day or two to let that settle in before they remember that, hey, the Orange Bowl is still a big reward for the season.
“I think we won’t have the numbers there would have been for” Pasadena, he said. “But I think they’ll still be a good bit of business when the dust settles.”
Ohio State has only played in the Orange Bowl game once, in 1977.
“If we were going back to the Fiesta or Sugar bowls, I think people would be disappointed,” said Lisa Cisco of Travel Partners in Dublin.
Ohio State has played in those bowls several times, most recently in 2009 for the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and in 2011 for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
“But Miami, hopefully, will be popular because it’s been so long since we’ve been to the Orange,” Cisco said.
Mary Stephan of Allons Travel said she expects Buckeye fans to start ringing their travel agents today.
“I think the weather might be in our favor,” Stephan said. “It’s warm in Miami, and there’s so much to do there — the night life, the great Cuban food, all the other attractions.”
And Orange Bowl packages will be much more affordable than ones for California, she said. “If we were going to the national championship game, it would be a very expensive trip.”
Dave Matthews, owner of Prime Tours in Dublin, said he is counting on the “resiliency and spirit of the Buckeye fans.”
Matthews said he received many emails and voice messages yesterday from fans still planning to follow the Buckeyes to a bowl.
The bowl-game pairings were not officially announced until last night, so most agents will be setting bowl tour prices today. But Matthews said a package trip to the Orange Bowl should be less than $900 per person plus airfare — less than half what an equivalent trip to the BCS title game would have cost.
Matthews also is offering a customized VIP luxury package for six that will include private jet travel, limos in Columbus and Miami, luxury hotel suites and prime game tickets. The cost: $80,000.
“But a package like that would be $100,000 for the Rose Bowl, $130,000 for the BCS (championship) game,” he said.