With the FIFA World Cup less than three months away, the Brazilian tourist board has addressed concerns about the nation’s preparations and said it is ready to welcome fans.
Work is continuing on the Sao Paulo stadium where the opening match on June 12 is scheduled to take place, but Embratur, the tourist board, insists it will open in time.
Construction of the city’s Arena Corinthians stadium, where the England team also plays its second match, was delayed after an accident in which two workers were killed when a crane fell on top of them.
But the first “test” match was played on the pitch last Saturday, after the goalposts were delivered earlier in the week. Work still being carried out is limited to the “landscaping, overlay and all the little things that need to be done around the stadium,” Orlando de Souza, of the Sao Paulo tourism office, told journalists in London yesterday. “But I can tell you that on April 15 it will be officially delivered to FIFA.”
Another worry regarding Sao Paulo’s readiness for the tournament, which is attracting 3,000,000 Brazilian and 600,000 international football fans, relates to the build-up of traffic.
Tourism chiefs said a dedicated “express” train line would ensure the city’s transport network can cope with the influx of fans, however, and pointed out that World Cup numbers would be less per city than the 6,000,000 tourists who recently descended on Rio, Recife and Salvador for carnival.
The Expresso da Copa carry 100,000 people per hour direct from the central station to the stadium, it claimed.
While Sao Paulo’s airport was also a concern a year ago, a fourth terminal, built to provide more space and prevent bottle-necking, is expected to open in April.
The overpricing of hotel rooms has also been an issue for fans travelling to the tournament, and for Embratur itself, which lodged a complaint with FIFA about the inflated rates that were being offered through the governing body’s appointed accommodation agency.
Room rates in venue cities have been selling at double the usual price on match days, according to research by TripAdvisor, the hotel booking website. In Salvador the average increase in room rate on match days was even sharper, rising by 212 per cent compared to average rates for the rest of June and July.
Brazil’s tourist chiefs told Telegraph Travel they were keeping an eye on pricing and are promoting a raft of b&bs, small “pousadas” and private apartments, for those tourists who cannot afford a hotel.
It has produced a website, although in Portuguese only, which has links to the websites of a selection of b&bs in different host cities .
Fiona Duncan, our hotel expert, has recently recommended a number of chic but inexpensive pousadas in Rio de Janeiro.
England play their first match in Manaus, close to the Amazon river, where organisers expect fans to be pleasantly surprised by the city’s European architecture.
They say they have addressed concerns about health facilities there by investing money in a tropical diseases hospital.
Regarding security on the streets following the protests that took place during the Confederations Cup, held last summer, Roberto Jaguaribe, the Brazilian ambassador to the UK, reminded tourists that there had been dissent in the lead up to London’s 2012 Olympic Games too.
“It was the same in London”, he said yesterday. “In 2012 many people were saying the Olympics makes no sense for London but everyone was enormously satisfied afterwards and I’m convinced the same will happen in Brazil.
“There were many protests in [Brazil] at that time and many people who saw the papers were convinced that it was a revolution starting but of course that was not the case. They are not going to challenge any aspect of the World Cup.”
British fans make up 16 per cent of ticket sales for the opening match – Brazil v Croatia – a trend that, if it continues, means they will have bought more tickets that neighbouring Uruguayans.
England’s third match will be played at one of Brazil’s best stadiums, the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. It will also host the tournament’s quarter- and semi-finals.
Tourists visiting Brazil who don’t have match tickets are promised that there will be fan festivals and street fiestas which they can participate in.