By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the midst of an economic crisis, Carnival carries on in Rio de Janeiro, now just one week away. Yet the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association (ABIH) reports that hotel chains in the city are only registering 72 percent full for the five-day Carnival holiday.
The president of ABIH, Alfredo Lopes, expects that occupancy of hotels reach the general average of eighty percent during Carnival, and feels it may reach ninety percent in some neighborhoods. Last year, the average hotel occupancy rate in the city stood at 85.93 percent in the period.
“We had a great exhibition during the Olympics, which motivated foreign visitors and explains the high demand for Barra da Tijuca neighborhood [where there were installations of Rio 2016], but also we have a captive public in the domestic market, who seek to enjoy our blocos [street Carnival],” said Lopes.
According to the entity, Barra da Tijuca, in Zona Oeste (West Zone), is the most sought-after neighborhood so far this year, with 75 percent occupancy, followed by Copacabana and Leme with 74 percent; Flamengo and Botafogo with 73 percent and Ipanema and Leblon, with 71 percent of occupancy rates.
Stefano (Tafo) Macchi, an Italian expatriate and co-owner of the Casalegre Art Vila, a guesthouse and bed & breakfast (or pousada as termed in Brazil) in Santa Teresa, explains while the numbers may look like a small drop from last year, if reflects a much worse scenario than in recent history.
He shares, “Normally Carnival time used to be completely (100 percent) booked months before, not only a week before with three quarters occupancy. This is a big failure of the Brazilian tourism industry and even worse if they are deny it. […] I can tell you this is by far the worst scenario we have ever experienced.”
For the New year’s Eve celebrations at the beginning of the year, hotel occupancy in Zona Sul was at 85 percent, compared to 94 percent the city saw the year before. However in Barra da Tijuca, where most of the Games and new hotel rooms were added, the occupancy was 78 percent verses the 65 percent from last year.