By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the official summer season starts in Rio de Janeiro, a stronger dollar and afterglow of successfully hosting the 2014 World Cup may mean an increase in foreign tourism this year. Hotel occupancy rates are already up and the tourism sector is optimistic, hoping for a boost to the slowing economy.
According to the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association (ABIH-RJ), the average occupancy rate of hotels between December 2014 and March 2015 is likely to be 10 to 15 percent higher than in the same period of last season.
“The average occupancy from December to March should be at around eighty percent. Last year, the same period closed with an average of 75 percent, with sixty percent of the public [made up] from the domestic market,” said Alfredo Lopes the president of ABIH-RJ, adding that the months of January and February are usually the highest in terms of leisure tourists.
With the high dollar and the widespread publicity brought to the city during the World Cup from abroad, Lopes predicts the amount of foreign tourists in Rio will grow fifteen percent compared to last summer. “Here we have two ways: with the high dollar, foreign tourists are taking advantage of because their money is worth more. In addition, the World Cup has given the city very positive media.”
Andrew Harding, an English expatriate and founder of luxury concierge service ‘Man in Rio‘ says that “We are expecting to see an increase in traditional holiday makers thanks to the high visibility of Rio during the World Cup, as well as thanks to Rio 2016, with international Olympic committee officials, sponsors and athletes visiting Rio to prepare for their Olympic campaigns, whilst testing Rio’s stadiums and infrastructure.”
However Carioca Paula Sant’Anna, who is the co-owner of Portuguese language school Mundo Brasil in Copacabana is a little more cautious, and explained that she thinks that even with a stronger dollar, “everybody knows that to live in Rio is expensive and world economy is not at its best at the moment, so the stronger dollar probably will motivate people to travel to Brazil, [but] I think they will not spend here how they use to do.”
Last summer season (December to March) Rio experienced disappointing results in the tourism sector. The weakened dollar and sky-high prices in the Cidade Maravilhosa was taking a toll, along with many international travelers planning their trip to Brazil later in the year for the World Cup.