Rafael Nadal Boosting Rio Open Ticket Sales Despite Zika Outbreak, Brazil Recession

Courtesy of FORBES:

Rafael Nadal is boosting ticket sales at this week’s Rio Open as Brazil struggles with the outbreak of the Zika virus, while its economy is in freefall.

With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics starting in August, the World Health Organization has declared an international public health emergency after the virus – which has been linked to birth defects — spread from Brazil throughout Latin America. The Brazilian economy is forecast to shrink 2.95% this year, according to a weekly central bank poll last month. Although that’s the deepest downturn since at least 1901, tennis fans are still flocking to the Rio Open.

“We have become a little bit of an oasis in the desert,” Fernando Soler, head of IMG’s tennis division, which partially owns the company that runs the event, said by phone from Barcelona. “We have become a social event besides huge events like the World Cup or the Olympics.”

 Nadal’s presence has been of vital importance to the event, which is now in its third year.

“He’s a big driver for ticket sales,” Soler said. “He’s one of the best players of the last decade.”

The tournament has already sold out six sessions and is expected to sell 60,000 tickets in total, or 10% more than last year, according to IMG.

“Even though there is a recession in the country, our ticket prices are pretty affordable,” ranging from 30 real ($7.50) to 640 real, Soler added.