The 2018 FIFA World Cup is coming down to the wire with only eight teams left standing and the final just over a week away. On the internet, another World Cup competition has been quietly working its way towards completion, developed by transportation company Taxi2Airport. The World Cup of Travel follows the exact same bracket process as the World Cup of football, but it pits the countries against each other based on tourism appeal. Your country might field a good football team, but how easy is it for a visitor to find the perfect local wines pairings with dinner? How about landing a visa or finding quick transport from the airport to a hotel?
The World Cup of Travel started with countries matched in the same groups as we’ve watched the teams progress in Russia over the past two weeks. Each of the 32 teams that qualified for FIFA’s event had a place in the eight groups and began with head-to-head competition inside that group. Factors weighing in a country’s favor included cuisine, weather, culture, nightlife, shopping, and scenery.
There were several upsets, including Mexico toppling Switzerland and the early elimination of Iceland. The preference for sunny weather over legendary winter destinations could potentially be called out as referee bias, but alas, the matches moved on with Spain, Brazil, France, and Japan reaching the semi-finals.
Spain ultimately brought home the title of World Cup of Travel Champion, which isn’t much of a surprise considering you can spend your days in Spain lounging on the beach, enjoying the legendary Mediterranean climate, and your nights eating tapas and drinking wine in historic plazas. And anyone who has spent time in Madrid or Barcelona can attest to the country’s epic nightlife, which kept Spain consistently on offense as it knocked off Egypt, Argentina, Japan, and finally Brazil — all countries with thriving tourism industries. But this is still a huge victory for Spain since its actual World Cup team has been knocked out the competition.