Most Cities Getting Big Economic Boost From World Cup
DALLAS (AP) _ The first American edition of the world’s most popular sports event has been a winner at that most American of games: making money.
The World Cup, soccer’s world championship, is pumping billions of dollars into the economies of the nine host cities, according to economists, business people and political leaders.
Just like the occasional 0-0 draw in soccer, there have been some misses: Restaurants near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., where the championship match will be played July 17, say fear of soccer crowds has cut into their patronage. Some states haven’t met hotel demand projections that were apparently too optimistic in the first place. And hotels near Walt Disney World and other theme parks in Orlando, Fla., say business is down because families don’t want their vacations to coincide with the soccer crush.
But overall, an Associated Press survey at the midpoint of the World Cup found hotels crowded if not overflowing, restaurants and bars doing a steady business, and local officials pleased they lured the tournament to their cities.
″The exposure the city has received, especially because of the opening ceremonies being held here, will do a lot for people learning about Chicago as a vacation and business destination,″ said Kate Haymaker, spokeswoman for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. ″The games were worth more advertising dollars than we could ever pay.″
It’s still to early to say if the games will generate the $4 billion, not including inter-city travel, that was projected by two University of Southern California professors. But most cities and businesses like what they see:
- Hundreds of Italian, Irish and Mexican fans came to the New York City area to root for their teams, and ″they wouldn’t have been here without the World Cup, so the games were very positive events for the city,″ said Joseph Spinatto, executive director of the city’s Hotel Association.
- In Stanford, Calif., merchants around the game site at Stanford Stadium can’t serve the crowds quickly enough. ″It’s been great,″ said Janene Gilmartin, manager of the Stanford Track House, a sporting goods store adjacent to the stadium.
- Games at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando have been flowing with money for bars and eateries. Two bars reported sales 300 percent higher than before the World Cup.
- In Pontiac, Mich., David Littman, senior economist with Comerica Bank, said the four World Cup games at the Silverdome helped generate strong sales in nearby malls of souveniers and other goods.
The success contrasts with four years ago, when merchants and officials in Italy prepared for a financial bonanza that never came. Attendance at many games was low, fans who did come often camped or stayed with friends and relatives.
In the U.S., stadiums have been sold out for virtually all games. In Dallas, scalpers are asking $175-$250 a seat for $55 tickets to Saturday’s quarterfinal between Brazil and the Netherlands.
Littman, the Michigan bank economist, said: ″Here there were four games and international travel involved, so there was less chance of someone just driving into town and staying with a relative. They were more likely to stay at hotels and eat at restaurants.″
Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood expects long-term benefits from foreign visitors interested in doing business there, or in paving the way for central Florida firms to do business in Europe and Mexico. Each of the five nations with teams in Orlando established temporary consulates at City Hall, where brochures and contacts on travel and business opportunities were available.
Not everyone is happy, however.
Hotels in some World Cup cities were left with empty rooms when organizers over-projected sales and blocked them off for distribution through an expensive - and profit-making - World Cup Accommodations Bureau.
John Marks, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city’s hotel bookings were well below projections. Michigan and Massachusetts officials also reported disapointing bookings.
Orlando’s tourist hotels near the theme parks west of the city reported a slight letdown in June, apparently caused by people waiting for the soccer crowds to leave.
″We’ve all been a little nervous about the domestic market backing off,″ said Phil Wright, president of the Central Florida Hotel and Motel Association. ″We’re hoping that after July Fourth, we’ll begin seeing what we’ve been missing.″
In Pasadena, just up the street from the Rose Bowl, Sal Casola said nervous locals have helped cut business at his Market City Cafe 5 percent to 10 percent.
″I had a woman call up the other day and ask for a reservation for two for 5:30 Saturday night, then she said, ‘Oh, you have those games down there,’ and hung up.″