By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The number of international flights to Rio de Janeiro between July 25th and August 21, 2016 has increased 289 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. The jump in arrivals is attributed to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games which will take place in the city from August 5th – 21st.
Americans make up the biggest proportion of visitors arriving by plane to Galeão Tom Jobim (GIG), the international airport, at seventeen percent. Germans and Argentines each make up ten percent of people coming by plane, and the British nine percent.
Though numbers from Asia are smaller, there has been a jump of twenty percent in visitors from China and fifteen percent in visitors from Japan.
“Two years ago we started to look for foreign operators to teach them to sell the city,” says Michael Nagy, director of Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau.
While welcoming people from all over the world, the focus for the future will be on the Brazilian and Latin American visitors.
“They are the clients that will come again, the proximity makes a difference,” adds Nagy. “The main work begins after the event. We have the potential to triple the number of tourists in the city.”
In total there are 45,400 trips scheduled over the time period. In anticipation of the extra visitors improvements have been made to Galeão, including a new car park, better air conditioning, a wider variety of shops and restaurants and a greater focus on customer service.
The Santos Dumont, Rio’s domestic airport, has responded to the expected influx of visitors by extending its operating hours over the Olympic period. From August 3rd to 23rd commercial airlines will operate from 6AM to 11:59 PM. Executive aviation craft and air taxis will be allowed to operate at night, from 10:30 PM to 5:59 AM. The airport itself will not open overnight but will retain its normal working hours of 6AM to 10:30 PM.
“The measures will improve access to the city that will be the heart of the world during the Olympic Games,” said Mauro Lopes, Minister in Chief of the Department of Civil Aviation.
The changes will allow 70,000 more passengers to move through the airport per day, with 214 extra daily arrivals and departures.
“These measures will only improve the Rio de Janeiro’s airport system. More than that, those who come to Rio will have an excellent impression when arriving at Santos Dumont. The airport has undergone a quiet revolution and has improved a lot,” said Guilherme Ramalho, Executive Secretary of the Department of Aviation.
The airport also occupies a dramatic location on Guanabara Bay with breathtaking view of the city, Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf, giving passengers an excellent view of Rio when taking off and landing.
The increase in flights to Santos Dumont will take some pressure off Galeão airport as well as Rio’s roads. Over one million athletes, delegates and tourists are expected to arrive in the city over the Olympic and Paralympic Games putting a huge strain on the city’s infrastructure.
The arrival of 4,000 paralympians for the Games will also test Rio’s airports. Around one thousand volunteers have been brought in to assist with customer service at airports and over two thousand flight controllers have received special Olympic training. Close to a thousand extra aircraft parking spaces will be created over the period as well.