By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – World Youth Day (WYD), which officially began on July 23rd, is expected to boost the Brazilian economy to the tune of over a billion reals according to the country’s Tourism Ministry last week, however some local businesses are skeptical of the real impact on tourism in Rio.

Pope arrival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The Pope arrived in Rio on Monday July 22nd, photo by Shana Reis/Imprensa RJ.

The Tourism Ministry predicts that between 1.7 and 2 million pilgrims will visit Brazil during the course of this week to attend the WYD festivities. Brazil’s airports have increased staff numbers by an average of 58 percent to handle the influx of passengers.

The Acting National Secretary of Tourism Policies of the Ministry of Tourism, Sandro Fernandes, said that the pilgrims “should bring about R$1.2 billion into the economy.”

The Ministry’s figures show that direct expenditure on lodgings and meals is estimated to reach R$660 million. The average expenditure per tourist, including lodging, transportation and food, is said to be around R$305 per day.

With the costs of WYD being estimated at between R$320 to 350 million, the organizers are keen to highlight the economic benefits of hosting the event. The last WYD in Spain in 2011 was reported by its organizers to have generated an estimated US$476 million and created 5,000 jobs. According to the Catholic News Agency, the organizers of this week’s WYD in Rio have estimated that 20,000 jobs will be created by the event.

Pope in Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The Pope greets pilgrims on July 22nd, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

Some of Rio’s most famous tourist attractions are predicted to see an increase in visitor numbers during the week as well. Both Christ the Redeemer and the Sugarloaf cable car are extending their opening hours to cater for the increased demand.

Despite the number of visitors, some Rio businesses do not agree with the government’s view on the impact for the tourist industry. Marcelo Tesserolli, who runs tours of Rio told The Rio Times, “WYD has had no positive impact at all in my business. I know other companies that are having a hard time to allow their buses to go around because the city made a law that forbids charter buses to circulate during WYD. In truth, my clients that usually come in July, are not coming because of WYD.”

Tesserolli considers that major events such as WYD do help to raise Rio’s profile as a tourist destination but he continued that “during the event there are no benefits for companies that work with tourism.  It´s happened the same way in 2007 with Pan-American Games and this year with the Confederations Cup… Both have generated no business at all.”

Professor of Retail at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV), Daniel Plá, also evaluates the Catholic event will have little impact on trade in the city as a whole. “Less than fifteen percent of shops are benefiting from the event next week,” he told Agência Brasil. He said sales this week will be good for trade in Zona Sul (South Zone) and Centro due to the increase in tourists, common this time of year, “although the hotels are not fully occupied.”

Although organizers suggest the WYD more than pays for itself, O Globo reported on Saturday, July 20th that the Pope’s Welcoming Ceremony would cost the government R$850,000. The costs of hosting major events has been one of the subjects of recent mass protests in Rio and cities across Brazil.


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