With most in agreement that Brazil pulled off a great World Cup, tourism officials have announced that a total of one million foreign visitors visited the country for the month-long event.
The number exceeds the 600,000 tourists from abroad that Brazil’s Tourism Board originally expected to attend by 67%, and over 60% were in the country for the first time. In comparison, 310,000 foreign tourists went to South Africa for the World Cup in 2010. Germany received 2 million foreign visitors for the World Cup in 2006, according to official tourism numbers from each country.
The numbers provide a silver lining as Brazil faces the reality of a waning economy once the World Cup euphoria fades. Some 95% of the foreign visitors who came for the World Cup said they intend to return, according to the Tuesday statement from Brazilian officials.
Analysts were already expecting a boost for Brazil’s underdeveloped tourism industry after the World Cup, and with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro approaching. The World Travel & Tourism Council, an industry forum, said earlier this year it expected Brazil will receive 6.4 million international tourist arrivals in 2014, and that this number will swell to 14.2 million by 2024.
Brazil’s international visitor numbers had been hovering around 5 million for years despite boasting some of the world’s most scenic beaches, a vibrant musical culture and bustling cities and the vast Amazon rainforest. In comparison, the U.S. had 67 million international visitors in 2012.
Meanwhile, Brazilian officials were eager to declare a victory in a Tuesday statement looking back on the event. “We had a strict plan in place to follow up with the construction works of stadiums. We controlled every delivery step of each ground,” said Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo.
“We’re one of the few countries able to stage such a complex event, providing quality infrastructure and organization, with such a wonderful people, who welcomed everyone so well,” said Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil’s Minister of External Relations.
But even with overwhelmingly positive reviews of the event and a positive outlook for Brazilian tourism, such declarations of the event as a triumph in Brazilian planning and infrastructure may be overstated and premature. Though Brazil’s stadiums were finished in time, several of the stadiums were only finished at the eleventh hour. Brazilian industry is cutting production and infrastructure projects like trains and subways that were supposed to be ready for the Cup and remain unfinished – one of them, a highway overpass, even collapsed, killing two people in Belo Horizonte.
It remains to be seen how these officials will handle what economist are calling an deceleration that “has surprised even the biggest pessimists.”
For now, their mood remains celebratory. “We lost the trophy, but Brazil won the World Cup,” said Alofsio Mercadante, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff in the statement on Tuesday. “Brazil showed that they know how to win, lose, host and celebrate peace with respect and a ‘make yourself at home’ atmosphere that won the world over.”