Sunday, 21 October 2012

Brazil’s World Cup and Olympics: The impact on tourism in Brazil

I recently wrote a feature for The Times, as part of a larger supplement on Brazil. My article was about culture and tourism and discussed, in particular, the impact of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in Rio in 2016 on Brazil. I spoke to some influential Brazilians for the feature and here are some of their thoughts on how these events will impact tourism in different parts of Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro

“I think Rio is the coolest city in the world!” says Adriana Rattes, culture secretary for Rio. “Rio’s culture is an enormous tourist attraction, and we have a broad culture – the food, landscape, people, history. And when tourists say they love Brazil, they’re talking about the Carioca [natives of Rio] lifestyle. The image of Rio a few years ago was tinged with violence. Today, it’s a much safer city but there’s still work to be done.”

Rio will change a lot after the Olympics,” says Ricardo Mader Rodrigues, executive vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in Brazil. “It’s not an upper class destination – the demographic is middle class – but Rio has all the ingredients to be a first-class destination. Rio is in construction. Museums and aquariums are being built, the downtown area is being cleaned up – we’ll see a more affluent tourist in Rio. And Brazil’s hotel industry is seeing double-digit growth, so we’re working on several new hotel projects over the next few years. Rio will also become a big commercial destination. It’s the centre of Brazil’s oil and gas industries, of which Brazil will become a big exporter.”

“There have been a number of new hotels in Rio in the last few years and there are more coming,” says Tamara Heber-Percy, co-founder of Mr and Mrs Smith Hotels. “La Suite and La Maison are particularly interesting because they’re not in the touristy areas. The owners are opening a third hotel – Le Paris – in Rio’s historic quarter, with 21 rooms, a restaurant and roof-top pool. There’s a feeling of blossoming in Brazil in general and I felt very safe last time I went there. I used to live in São Paulo in 2000 in a nice area but there was still an undertone of having to be very careful; not so much anymore. People think Brazil is far away, but, in some parts, there’s only a three-hour difference from the UK so you don’t get that dreadful jetlag.”

São Paulo

São Paulo is not really a tourist destination,” says Claire Rigby, editor of Time Out São Paulo. “But it’s an absolutely brilliant city and I would recommend anyone to come and visit. It doesn’t have an obvious charm, it’s not an obvious beauty, but if you love cities, you’ll love São Paulo. It’s also the city where I find it the easiest to make friendships. The Paulistanos [natives of São Paulo] are quite excited about the World Cup [in 2014] in Brazil and excited about the way people are looking at Brazil. There’s a nice kind of pride to it all. But there’s a bit of apprehension too [about the World Cup]. The Paulistanos have developed a phrase – ‘imagina na Copa!’ (imagine it during the World Cup!) – that they use when, for example, São Paulo is in gridlock [which it often is…].

Brazil’s other hotspots

“Today, Brazil’s top five cities for tourism are São Paulo, Foz de Iguaçu, RioFlorianopolis and Salvador. We want to diversify that with the World Cup, which will be hosted in 12 cities. So, [host city] Manaus will promote the Amazon; Cuiaba the Pantanal; Belo Horizonte cultural tourism,” explains Flavio Dino, president of Brazilian tourist board Embratur. “As a tourist destination, Brazil has it all.”

Salvador is the heart of the north east,” says Time Out’s Claire. “And Belo Horizonte [in Minas Gerais in the southeast] is like São Paulo in a sense. It’s not a beautiful city visually, but it’s really interesting culturally. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and Belo Preto is among the historic towns. Porto Alegre [in Rio Grande do Sul] has a lively social scene.”

“Business-wise, Recife [in the northeast] is a city that is growing a lot; there’s a lot of investment being ploughed in the city,” says Jones Lang LaSalle’s Ricardo. Salvador has a lot of potential, it has a lot of history and culture, but the Government is not doing a good job there. It’s not prioritising tourism.

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