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Vancouver should get a World Cup tourism boost, how much is unclear

City getting 7 games to go along with 6 in Toronto

Toronto and Vancouver are set to get a tourism boost from the World Cup, but one expert says to be wary of rosy projections.

FIFA announced on Sunday the two cities will host a combined total of 13 games, including Toronto hosting Canada’s first ever men’s World Cup match.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said in a statement she was “thrilled” to see the city chosen for six matches, while Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said on X that he was “stoked” the city would host seven “epic” matches.

The City of Toronto said the event is expected to create 3,585 jobs, draw more than 300,000 visitors, and that Canada should see a $1.2-billion boost to GDP from the Vancouver and Toronto games combined.

The economic boost includes $393 million in GDP for Toronto, and an additional $456 million for Ontario, the city said.

The projected benefits to Toronto were up almost 30 per cent from what the city said back in mid-2022.

However, the hit to taxpayers will also run high, with Toronto estimating in 2022 that costs would be about $300 million and Vancouver that year projecting costs of around $250 million.

Neither city has released an updated cost estimate.

When Toronto first pitched the games in 2018, a city report estimated the cost at between $30 million and $45 million.

The expected boost to the economy also doesn’t factor in the tourists who would already be filling up hotels and restaurants during the busy summer season, said Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in economics at Concordia University in Montreal.

“They’re already filled during the summer with tourists, and the hotels are already full and the bars and restaurants are already full,” said Lander, who studies sports economics.

If soccer-loving tourists simply displace regular tourists, the economic benefit is substantially lower, he said.

The attention that the games bring can also lead to a long-term increase in tourism, and a general boost to a region’s profile. It’s part of the reason Qatar spent more than $200 billion on hosting the last World Cup.

British Columbia is also betting on a longer-term boost, with Destination BC projecting that the tournament could generate $1 billion for the province’s tourism sector, when both the games, and the five years after are factored in.

But Lander questions how much of a profile boost Toronto or Vancouver could actually get from hosting the games, given their multicultural global makeup and having already hosted major international sporting events.

“There is almost no way that people don’t know what Toronto is, and Vancouver of course, is in a very similar situation,” said Lander.

“It’s not even raising the profile of these cities in a way that maybe poorer countries, or lesser known countries would get a boost.”

While projections may have shortfalls, the results of some past events do show promise.

A report from Canada Soccer found the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014 supported $493.6 million in economic activity for Canada, higher than the projections of $337 million.

The initial costs for both competitions totalled $216 million, generating $249 million in net GDP with $97.6 million in tax revenues supported across the country, according to the report.

Lander said similarly that given Toronto and Vancouver’s existing infrastructure, they should come out ahead economically, but the taxpayer wont.

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