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Hosting soccer’s World Cup ‘ineffective’ says study as B.C defends 2026 goal

Study published in Tourism Economy raises questions, but ministry ‘thrilled’ to host seven games
BC Place Stadium will host seven games including two games featuring Canada’s Men’s National Soccer Team when FIFA’s Men’s World Cup, comes to North America. But a report published in 2019 raises questions about the effectiveness of promoting tourism through mega-events like the world’s largest soccer tournament. (Ryan Adams/Wikimedia Commons)

B.C.’s tourism ministry is defending playing host to FIFA’s Men’s World Cup in 2026 amidst research that raises questions about the event’s long-term impact.

A study by German research Christopher Vierhaus published in 2019 in the academic journal Tourism Economics, finds that “surprisingly, hosting the World Cup is ineffective in promoting tourism” in the long-run.

“Although international tourism increases in the event year, this growth is more than offset by the decreased tourism from (one) to (four) years after the event. “

Vierhaus’ study looks whether hosting mega-sporting events like the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup is a useful marketing platform for promoting international tourism, by applying its own models to past research.

It found that only hosting the Summer Olympics has a positive long-term effect.

“In contrast, hosting the FIFA World Cup is overall ineffective in tourism promotion despite higher tourist arrivals in the event year,” Vierhaus writes.

Vancouver is one of 16 host cities in the United States, Mexico and Canada to co-host the 2026 World Cup, which includes 48 teams from around the world. Vancouver will host seven games — five group stage matches, including two featuring the Canadian Men, and two knock-out matches.

The ministry said in a statement it is not “familiar” with Vierhaus’ report, “so is unable to comment on it.”

“Hosting the FIFA World Cup 26 – the world’s largest single sport event – is an amazing opportunity to support local businesses, create jobs, and generate long-lasting benefits” for the provincial tourism economy and the economy at large,” it reads. “We are thrilled to welcome these seven FIFA World Cup 26 matches to Vancouver and British Columbia.”

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According to the statement, preliminary estimates from Destination BC and BC Stats assumed that hosting five — rather than seven — matches could attract close to 269,000 visitors to Vancouver during the tournament. These figures would add to a total of more than 900,000 additional visitors during and in the five years following the tournament. Overall, the provincial government expects more than $1 billion in additional visitor spending for B.C.’s economy on top of the $15 billion that the provincial tourism sector currently generates.

Questions about the event’s effect on tourism coexist with questions about its costs.

Last week, Tourism Minister Lana Popham said B.C.’s cost of hosting has gone up, but was not prepared to share those figures with the public yet.

“The numbers have changed substantially since we have received news of getting two more games (from the initial five),” Lana Popham acknowledged Tuesday (Feb. 27). “(So) we don’t have any working number today to give you but we’ll have that soon.”

Popham acknowledged that she has a “ballpark” figure of the additional costs, but she added that she was not prepared to give that figure right now. Staff are working on final numbers, she said. “But I will repeat that those two extra games give us a bigger advantage.”

Both the political opposition led by BC United and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have raised concerns about rising costs as well as the source of money for any increases.

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy last week defended the government’s handling of the event.

“Of course, if there is funding that we need for this year for FIFA, it will be used in contingencies, but not $3 billion, for goodness sakes,” she said in responding to BC United’s shadow finance minister Peter Milobar.

“I don’t know why they hate soccer. It’s a good question. I don’t understand it. I mean, people are really excited, I think. People are coming from all over the world to watch these seven games in Vancouver. It’s amazing, amazing. We will have the numbers soon.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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