The World Cup soccer championship in Argentina was expected to draw many thousands of soccer fans - bringing with them thousands of dollars to spend while enjoying the matches.
The World Cup soccer championship in Argentina was expected to draw many thousands of soccer fans - bringing with them thousands of dollars to spend while enjoying the matches. Everything was prepared - with hotels, restaurants and even taxi drivers in the capital city, Buenos Aires, waiting for a profitable boom in business. Now the Argentines are grimly counting the cost of the preparations and instead of reaping a bonanza from the World Cup many small tradesmen are facing bankruptcy.
SYNOPSIS: Shops in Buenos Aires are well stocked up with expensive goods before the first soccer fan set foot in the city. Believing tourists would want to spend a small fortune on luxury goods as they waited for the next match, many store-owners invested in costly stock designed to tempt them. Instead, the tourists are looking, but not buying. Prices are high, the number of visitors low and shopkeepers are disappointed.
Taxi drivers installed fixed-price metros in their cabs, in compliance with government orders that there should be no over-charging. Like shopkeepers with empty showrooms, taximen are now complaining about the lack of customers. The head of the World Cup Tourism Department, Miguel Rivero Hornos says he believed two factors have contributed to the scarcity of visitors - recent campaigns by human rights groups criticising the Argentine government and the high cost of living with annual inflation running at 180 per cent.
By June, there were 25,000 hotel beds in Buenos Aires. It was predicted that over 45,000 tourists would be flooding into the city. In fact less than half that figure have arrived, so many hotels are massively under-booked.
The tourists who have come are choosing their restaurants carefully. Expensive cafes remain empty, while cheap eating houses are packed. Apart from spending around 700 million U.S. dollars on World Cup preparations, the Argentine government has mounted a national campaign to welcome visitors. Television commercials remind the public that "25 million people are playing for Argentina". Whatever successes the Argentines achieve in the World Cup, they've certainly paid a high price for playing host.