By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite economic turmoil and concerns rising over the Zika virus, officials estimate that approximately one million tourists will visit the city of Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Carnival. The holiday will take place this year from February 5th through to the 9th.
The Brazilian Hotel Industry Association in Rio de Janeiro (ABIH-RJ) predicted an 85 percent occupancy rate for the city’s hotels this year and has reported that there will be 15,000 more beds available than there were in 2015. Additionally, eleven cruise ships will bring thousands of tourists to the city when they arrive at Rio’s port on February 7th.
The holiday festivities this year will include 650 parades and 505 blocos (street parties), almost fifty more than in 2015. With the inclusion of the visitors to the city, over five million people are anticipated to attend events.
Officials estimate that during the five-day holiday, tourists will add approximately US$740 million to the local economy. Tourism Secretary Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello told the press, “These are Olympic-scale figures that show the power of a Carnival celebration to inject money into the economy at such a hard moment for Brazil.”
When asked about this year’s Carnival festivities compared to others, and the Zika virus scare, Jascha Lewkowitz, from Caminhos Language Center in Ipanema, said “I don’t see a big difference [from past years]. Zika would probably only effect pregnant women, and I don’t think a lot of pregnant women will travel for Carnival to Rio.” Adding that “the [stronger] dollar should have a positive impact on Rio.”
The blocos began this year on January 16th and will continue through to February 14th. The samba school Carnival competition in the famed Sambódromo will take place on February 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th.