by Hanno Martens, M.A. cand. Cologne Business School
“We had one problem, our match against Germany. (…) We beat the pessimistic predictions and hosted the World Cup of World Cups with the immense and wonderful contribution of our people.” – Dilma Rousseff President of Brazil
So throughout the whole World Cup, the yearlong preparations and the aftermath there was really only one problem?
Only from a football perspective the German national team definitely uncovered more than one Brazilian problem. On closer observation these problems could have been seen in the games before, but they did not stand out that strongly. The Brazilians also tried to hide societal and political troubles. In this case the protests of the people of Brazil ensured that these issues were seen by the world public. Even with victories against Germany and Argentina, Brazil would not have solved any problems in the country. The football-crazy and happy people would have only forgotten them for a short time.
Everybody working in tourism should know: Everywhere crowds of people travel to one country a lot more than just one problem arise. They have just as much to do with Brazils defeat by Germany or the game of football as such as England and Italy with the knockout rounds.
In total one million foreign tourists travelled to Brazil for the World Cup. About 95% allegedly intend to travel to Brazil again (World Cup Portal, 2014a). On average these visitors stayed 14 days. For international trips this is a standard duration of stay. Many tourists used the time between the games of their nation to visit the country. Therefore, 378 Brazilian communes, and not only the 12 host cities, profited from the expenses by guests (World Cup Portal, 2014b). In total tourists in Brazil spent 2 billion euros. Through indirect and induced income effects the economic effect of the world cup for Brazil shall sum up to about 10 billion euros (Atkinson, 2014).
Despite the impressive numbers the government presented after the World Cup, I want to explain five problems of tourism during this tournament.
1) A big part of the income from tourism doesn’t help any Brazilian really. Instead large amounts of money are taken out of the country by international hotel chains and restaurants.
2) Large tourist groups pollute the environment (greenhouse gases, garbage) and increase overcrowding and congestion.
3) Apparently, small villages profited from the World Cup because many tourists also came there. However, this creates the danger of many inhabitants or whole villages, which profited from the World Cup, aim to restructure and focus on tourism. The villages will become dependent on tourism. As a new run of tourists will fail to appear (despite Olympia 2016), investments were short-sighted and the threat of bankruptcies will grow.
4) Other profiteers from World Cup tourists like gastronomy businesses or hotels, which have invested or only built because of the World Cup, might stay empty as soon as the World Cup effect levels out and fight a price war. Here the follow-up usage is about as critical as with most of the World Cup stadiums.
5) Sadly, with tourists in the country prostitution and even child prostitution often increases. Many girls were abducted by the mafia deliberately for the World Cup and others prostitute themselves out of hopelessness. In particular, the quote from Poliana, a 14 year-old from Sao Paolo, in a report from the British Mirror shocked me: “There are many who are younger than me, 11, 12. I’m often the oldest girl on the road. When the World Cup begins there will be many more girls my age and younger. Everyone thinks they can make a lot of money from the foreigners coming here.” So the World Cup drives even more girls into prostitution. The Brazilian government looked away, although it is a known and dramatic problem. By the way, the report is from December 2013, 2 weeks after Poliana found out about her pregnancy (Roper, 2013).
So is tourism always bad? Or can the motto Germany called out for 2006: “Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden – A time to make friends” be realised sustainably?
The experiences from South Africa show that many small and informal companies profited from the World Cup and used the money earned in the summer of 2010 to pay school fees or reduce their dept. The government missed the chance to support these companies to be able to keep house sustainably in the long run. The government and also the FIFA should have approached the informal enterprises and SME’s and offered them further education and training. Instead many were just banned from areas around the stadium (Everatt, 2014). Brazil also missed a huge chance here. Officials estimate the World Cup to have created 700,000 permanent jobs. In South Africa the expectations were similarly high. However, the World Cup did not create any new permanent jobs effectively. In the end the most profit is made by the non-profit organisation FIFA anyway, which has increased its reserves to about 1.3 billion dollars.
Right after the tournament it is not foreseeable, if the image effects will benefit tourism in Brazil. In South Africa the World Cup increased the global attention, national pride, citizen involvement and even the productivity in the medium-term. After the protests in Brazil it remains to be seen, if such an effect will be measured there (Pflüger et al., 2014). The belief in positive image effects and resulting tourist flows has already prevented many objective cost-benefit analyses. For tourism to profit from a large sports event such as a World Cup (or Olympia 2016 in Rio!) a national, sustainable tourism concept has to be developed in advance.
Currently though, Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff only has one problem: In October presidential elections will take place in Brazil. Also for this reason, many problems with regard to the country, in tourism and in the infrastructure were just swept under the carpet. The World Cup just had to be a success story. Ultimately, at least for Dilma Rousseff, only the German national team in the semi-final stop this success story.
Atkinson, M. (2014). Brazil expects $13.5 billion Economic Boost from 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Everatt, D. (2014). Kurzfristige Gewinne, verpasste Chancen. In: Tourism Watch, 75, s. 10-12.
Pflüger, W.; Quitzau, J.; Vöpel, H. (2014). Strategie 2030 – Brasilien und die Fußball-WM 2014, HWWI & Berenberg (Hrsg.), Hamburg 2014, S.16-18.
Roper, M. (2013). Child Sex Shame of Brazil: Prostitute aged 14 used by Workers at England World Cup Venue. The Mirror, 08.12.2013.
World Cup Portal (2014a). Federal Government presents an Assessment of World Cup Actions.
World Cup Portal (2014b). Brazil played Host to a million foreign Tourists, from 203 different Countries.