Explore Edmonton estimates somewhere between $30 million and $40 million in economic benefits were brought to the region during the World Cup qualifying games.
On Nov. 12, there were about 48,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium to watch Canada take on Costa Rica. On Tuesday, about 44,000 were in attendance when Canada and Mexico took to the pitch.
It’s estimated 30 per cent of attendees were from outside the city, and there were more than 12,000 hotel nights booked per match.
“For an industry that has suffered through the pandemic from no or little visitation, that is huge,” Dan St. Pierre with Explore Edmonton said Wednesday.
Joumana Ghandour, the general manager of the Westin in downtown Edmonton, said the qualifiers couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It helps us bring people back to work,” she said.
“It’s wonderful. It’s been the best week in the last 18 months.”
The Westin hosted Team Mexico as well as a large group of visitors from the United States and other parts of Canada.
“They even arrived before the team and had a party going on,” Ghandour said.
Alejandra Lopez is a fan who travelled from Mexico to support her team.
“I really liked it, even more so because I came to see Mexico play,” she said of her time in Edmonton. “Even though they didn’t win, we are happy, and we will continue to support them. No matter where they go, we will go.”
Ghandour is hoping the number of people who travelled to the region is a sign of good things to come for local tourism while Explore Edmonton says it all bodes well for the city’s bid to host part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
According to FIFA, the 2026 tournament will be hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. Explore Edmonton is pushing hard for Edmonton to host five of those games.
“We pulled this off in November on the tail end of a pandemic,” St. Pierre said of the qualifiers. “Imagine doing this five times during the World Cup along with a 30-day fan festival when Edmonton is green, the river valley is blooming and it is light out every night until 11:17 p.m.”
He calls it an “absolute no-brainer.”
It’s estimated hosting those World Cup games would result in around $600 million in economic impact and see about 250,000 visitors come to the capital region.
The fan response
Jay-R De Lara was at the game Tuesday and called it a special night.
“The atmosphere was amazing. From the very beginning when you entered Commonwealth Stadium, it was electric,” he said Wednesday.
“It was definitely a night to remember. So proud to be Canadian.”
Mark Kay went with his wife, kids and a number of friends. He said they didn’t sit down and instead stood and chanted with fellow fans throughout the game.
“We woke up with no voices, tired, cold — but it was worth it.”
It was the family’s first soccer game, and they had no idea what to expect, let alone attending a game in the frigid circumstances on Tuesday.
“Based on last night’s events, we would get tickets the second we could for the next Canada soccer game here. It was our first ever experience, and I don’t think it could have gone any better,” Kay said.
“We would go back again, even in that cold.”
Both of his kids — a five-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl — are soccer players. He thinks this kind of sporting event will have nothing but a positive effect on youth soccer.
“(My daughter) couldn’t stop talking about it last night,” he said. “Even this morning, she was talking about it to her friends on the way to school.”