Ever since it was chosen as one of 12 host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil in mid-2009, Cuiabá was surrounded by expectations. The initial joy at times gave way to concerns with the numerous works in progress required to hosting the World Cup. "Will there be a World Cup in Cuiabá?" seemed to be the general question being asked. Now, five days after the Pantanal Arena hosted its last match, the feeling hovering in the air is one of nostalgia.
Passengers disembarking and boarding at the airport, urban mobility, hospitality, safety and security, healthcare, access to the stadium and all required areas flowed smoothly (as evaluated by authorities, fans and residents alike), without issues that could have jeopardized the progress of the World Cup in Cuiabá. In conversations with the city's industry, the general reports are of a heated economy and better trained staff. In the safety area, investments in equipment and technology will be left for the city as a legacy. And the local people, imbued with the city's customary warmth and affection, made for memorable moments. The Cuiabanos have hosted a beautiful party inside and outside the Pantanal Arena, welcoming with open arms the hundreds of thousands of tourists arriving in the city.
In foreign tourists alone, Cuiabá received at least over 108 thousand visitors. Estimates by the city's Secretariat of Tourism of the city point to a much larger number, however. The Secretariat also estimates that the impact on the local economy has been greater than the R$ 311 million initially forecast by the Ministry of Tourism.
In its 295 years, Cuiabá had never lived the experience of receiving so many tourists of so many cultures and languages within such a short span of time. The visibility the city enjoyed while holding the World Cup matches has been equally unprecedented.
Heads of State
For state governor Silval Barbosa, the World Cup represented a "watershed" for Cuiabá. According to him, the first fruits are already being reaped, and the worldwide exposure of the city's name can facilitate relations with other countries and bring greater opportunities for business and cultural exchanges. "Many tourists who came to stay three days in the city decided to stay longer. And many of those who have already gone will return. Fortunately everything went well, and the greater proximity with other countries fostered by Cuiabá having hosted the matches will certainly lead to future business and trade deals. There is great interest for that in both sides," said Silval.
During the preparation to and hosting of the World Cup, the governor received Heads of State (such Chile president Michelle Bachelet), representatives from the Japanese, Australian and Russian governments and delegations from all countries who had matches in Cuiabá. The governor also stressed the physical legacy left for the city, such as safety and security technology and equipment, the expansion of the airport and dozens of urban mobility works, all bound to greatly improve the road network and general infrastructure of the Mato Grosso capital.
Silval also emphasised that all urban mobility works that have not yet been finalized will be completed. In all, 56 works have been planned. "We dared a little more. Otherwise, maybe the metropolitan area would not receive these investments for another 30 years. All of them will be completed," he said.
Regarding the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, the Governor said that the forecast is that the full 22-kilometers section will be ready by the beginning of next year. The implementation of the LRT, budgeted at approximately R$ 1.4 billion, is the main urban mobility work being built in Cuiabá.
The new arrivals area and parking lot of the Várzea Grande Airport were finalized before the World Cup, as well as two extra baggage conveyors, new restrooms and a larger number of seats. With the opening of 12 new boarding gates, scheduled for delivery in October, the airport's handling capacity will increase from 2.5 million to 5.7 million passengers per year.
Economy and tourism
The strong presence of tourists circulating through Cuiabá because of the World Cup contributed to a significant increase in the demand for tourist trips around the state. Lui Belfort, executive director of Eco Turismo Cultural - one of the most traditional travel agencies for tours of Chapada dos Guimarães - pointed out that the demand for tours rose by more than 150% at times.
He added that tourist interest was not restricted to Chapada dos Guimarães (a major eco-tourism destination of Mato Grosso). There was also a lot of demand for other destinations, such as the Pantanal.
Hospitality and Services
The hotel segment of the Cuiabá area (including cities within a 200-km range) was another one to receive a significant World Cup boost. According to the Hotels, Bars and Restaurants Union of Mato Grosso (SHBR-MT), the region's hotel chain has been working at full capacity since the beginning of the month. Cuiabá has 21 thousand hotel beds.
Establishments such as bars and restaurants have seen unprecedented increases in demand as well. In some places, sales were up as far as 200%.
They were not the only ones to benefit, however. The large number of tourists traveling through Cuiabá during the World Cup have contributed directly to significant increases in overall commerce in the city. According to the president of the Retailers Association of the Cuiabá Historical Center, João Batista, the increase in trade has exceeded 40% in the area. In his shop, on the sidewalk along the Ricardo Franco Street, the entire inventory of models, ornaments and clothes in green and yellow has vanished.
On the city's malls, the massive presence of tourists has been encouraging to shop owners. At the Pantanal Shopping Centre, initial estimates point to a 20% overall increase in sales for the stores and the food court, says marketing manager Cynthia Tristan.
Professional training and tourist services
Cuiabá and four other neighboring towns (Poconé, Nobres, Várzea Grande and Chapada dos Guimarães) also trained staff to work in tourism ahead of the World Cup. A total of 7,683 students from the five cities have taken vocational training courses through the Pronatec Tourism program.
Arena and Fan Fest
The Pantanal Arena hosted four matches in the group phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, with overall attendance by 158,000 fans (the stadium has a full capacity of 41,390). The government of Mato Grosso is still defining how the concession model will work for use post-World Cup, but it is likely to remain under exclusive private control for a period of 30 years, according to Maurício Guimarães, Secretary of Mato Grosso’s Secopa (Secretariat for World Cup Affairs).
As for the Fan Fests, the gatherings received a total of 202,000 people between 12 June and Tuesday (24 June). Installed in the Acrimat Exhibit Park, the Cuiabá Fan Fest will continue to run until the final match in 13 July. The space, completely free to enter, opens at 11 AM and offers free parking for up to one thousand cars.
From 12 to 24 June, date of the last match held in Cuiabá, the Integrated Joint Healthcare Operations Center provided medical services to 739 patients in the capital of Mato Grosso. The Advanced Medical Outpost (PMA) of the Pantanal Arena was the most often used, providing care to 439 patients in total. Of these, 334 requested clinical services and 67 required trauma treatment, all without any severe cases.
103 police incidents were recorded during the World Cup in Cuiabá. None of the cases were considered serious. The crime rate in June this year was 26% lower compared to the same period last year.
According to the urban mobility coordinator of the Mato Grosso Secopa, Rafael Detoni, 50,000 people used the 11 special bus lines created especially to bring fans to the Pantanal Arena on match days.
The 11 special lines (and the 147 buses operating them) brought passengers to and from 66 hotels and hostels, 21 bars and restaurants, three malls, the airport, the central bus station, the FIFA Ticket Center (ticket distribution area), the city centers, dozens of neighborhoods and the Fan Fest.