Winnipeg disappoints FIFA fans in world spotlight

Tourists and businesses upset by Winnipeg's lack of preparedness for the global tourism event.

The projections of the world cup's economic impact are to the tune of $267M for Canada

Fans from all across the United States are in Winnipeg to see the American women's team play. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Fans in Winnipeg for the FIFA Women's World Cup are being underwhelmed by the city's welcome wagon. 

"It seems like there are a lot of people here for it, but it doesn't seem like the city itself, aside from the hotel being booked, doesn't seem to be anything extraordinary," Rick Landuw said. He traveled to Winnipeg with his family from Rhode Island. 

Complaints among the city's visitors seem to be a lack of events, traffic troubles and sloppy landscaping. 

That being said, Winnipeg has not failed on all fronts. 

"Everything's been really nice. Friendly, very friendly," Kim Kirtley told CBC, in town from Virginia.

A 'partially hacked' approach

"This is an international showcase for our city," said Steve Walker, a hotel manager in Winnipeg. 
Steve Walker manages a Winnipeg hotel near the airport and says he's gotten rave reviews about the kindness of Manitobans. (CBC)

We had 10 days to showcase out city and we've come up short, Walker said. 

"What upsets me is that there doesn't seem to be the coordination that was required to pull off the best face of the city."

Details are detracting from Winnipeg while it sits in the spotlight. 

"Lets cut our boulevards properly, not like they were partially hacked, and that's what it looks like. Attention to detail is what we require when we are hosting an international group that we want to go back to their countries and sell our city," Walker said. 

Walker agrees that people have been the redeeming factor in the fiasco. Guests at his hotel have raved about how friendly and accommodating Manitobans have been.

"So we haven't gotten this totally wrong."

100% occupancy in Winnipeg hotels

Winnipeg is no stranger to hosting tourist-attracting events. It has hosted the Juno awards, the Grey Cup and the Pan Am Games, and the vice president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Loren Remillard, disagrees that Winnipeg is disappointing in the FIFA spotlight. 
Team U.S.A. fans took over Barley Brothers on Pembina Highway near the Winnipeg Stadium ahead of the team's match against Australia Monday night. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

"This is a major undertaking so there's always going to be the odd challenge here and there but overall from everything we've heard, the event is being run extraordinarily well," he said. 

Nationally the projections of the economic impact of hosting the world cup events will be $267 million.

Typically, at this time of year, Winnipeg hotel occupancy sits around 70 per cent, Remillard said. Right now, it's at full capacity. 

"Each time that we hold an event of this magnitude, it really allows us to demonstrate to the world that we can do these events and we do them world-class," he told CBC.

"When it comes to the next potential event coming down the road and someone looking at Winnipeg as a host city, they can look at our track record of success and say Winnipeg does it well and does it better than anyone else and  this is a place we want to host our next event."


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