Will any fans go to the World Cup?

Will any fans go to the World Cup?
Will any fans go to the World Cup?
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Eighty per cent of ticket sales have been to Brazilians

As the FIFA 2014 World Cup approaches, football players and fans are limbering up for an action-packed tournament.

In the recent second phase of ticket sales, half a million people from 199 countries scrambled to guarantee access to one of the games.

Unsurprisingly, 80% of these fans were Brazilian, and the reality for most Europeans will be a summer spent watching matches from the comfort of their own homes.

But Brazil, like every other nation that’s ever hosted a major sporting event, is confident the World Cup will still boost the number of visitors to the country. Certainly, countries which have hosted major sporting in the past have enjoyed similar successes; Barcelona enjoyed a massive boost in visitor numbers after the 1992 Olympic Games, while the increase of tourist numbers in South Africa since it hosted the World Cup in 2010 has been much steadier but consistent, with the South African government saying there has been a year-on-year uplift.

In terms of South America and the ‘World Cup effect’, tour operator Cox & Kings, who have a strong foothold in Peru, says there has already been a significant increase. Despite hikes in hotel prices in Brazil for the tournament period, accommodation in some of the major host cities is also already thin on the ground - rental company Holiday Lettings (www.holidaylettings.co.uk) says most of their Brazil properties are already booked up for June and July.

This all means that for many people, the prospect of visiting during the World Cup will be either logistically or financially impossible, but increased media coverage of the destination will no doubt fuel interest in future visits.

One of the biggest problems facing Brazil has been its safety records, with many potential tourists turned off by the prospect of violent crime. But in the last few years, the government has been working hard to clean up streets and increase police presence - to great effect.

On a visit to Rio last summer, I was amazed to see how much safer the city felt than on previous holidays there. While problems have not been eradicated completely, there’s a definite sense that authorities are looking out for tourists.

The government is obviously keen to banish any unfavourable stereotypes about the destination, as demonstrated last week when Adidas was told to stop selling T-shirts sexualising women and seen to ‘encourage sexual tourism’. Airlines are also working hard to offer financial incentives to visitors.

For the first time ever, TAM airlines recently linked up with several holiday companies to offer favourable package deals to Brazil - albeit outside the tournament dates. If it’s a success, they may follow with more appealing offers later in the year. There’s no question the World Cup has come at a good time for Brazil; the economy has stabilised over the past two decades, and improved facilities and infrastructure will no doubt help the country toward its goal of becoming a major world player.

Whoever ends up taking the trophy home, Brazil should be onto a tourism winner.