Millions of foreign tourists are heading to Russia this month for the world’s most watched sporting event, the FIFA World Cup.
As it was during the games of the 2014 Olympiad, the nation is in the grandest of sporting spotlights. This time however, Russia is trying to put on its best face, literally.
It may be a soccer tournament, but the World Cup is also a hospitality showcase, and to leave a lasting impression on visitors, Russian employees hired by FIFA to work the event, along with key transportation firms are being taught how to smile. Train conductors, hotel managers, restaurant owners and their staffs are all undergoing the exercise to buck the nation’s stereotype as an unfriendly place.
An expected 1.5 million fans will be in attendance at the 64 matches, which span from June 14 to July 15 across 11 Russian cities, meaning there should be plenty of opportunity for Russian hospitality workers to make an impression.
If the host nation plays as it did in its first match, a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, there will be plenty to smile about.