With the World Cup having already thrown up a couple of intriguing results in its opening round, the Brazilian government revealed that the competition is also proving to be a success off the pitch after confirming that the country is managing to hit its tourism goals.
"The balance sheet for the first few days of the World Cup is generally very positive," Tourism Minister Vinicius Lages said.
AdvertisementEarly data shows Brazil will meet its target of attracting some 600,000 foreign and three million domestic visitors for the month-long event running to July 13, he said.
Lages told reporters in Rio that Brazil was on course to net $3 billion from tourists criss-crossing 12 host cities.
He said Brazil had two major selling points -- as well as the football, which he described as "an enormous window of opportunity" for the country to showcase its charms.
Lages insisted that despite wide-ranging social problems and division Brazil is "a happy country, a spa for the soul."
With US fans purchasing the second-largest number of tickets after Brazilians, Lages said a decision to offer them free visas for the event "helped us a lot."
Brazil, with just six million tourists a year, lags far behind other major tourist destinations -- compared to the 83 million France attracted last year and 67 million for the United States.
He said Brazil must latch onto the interest generated by the World Cup to fulfill more of its tourist potential, using the 2016 Rio Olympics as an additional springboard.
But he conceded there needed to be improvements in infrastructure, most notably transport.
Brazil has faced widespread criticism for starting World Cup and Olympic preparations late and dropped a slew of planned urban mobility schemes before the soccer extravaganza began, while airport upgrades have also lagged.
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