By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The city of Rio de Janeiro expects to receive approximately 1.1 million tourists in this year’s Carnival, according to officials. That is an increase from the one million predicted last year, and in 2015, when Rio’s tourism agency Riotur forecasted of 977,000 visitors.
The massive Carnival celebrations, which officially begins this today (Friday, February 24th), will bring together visitors from around the globe, to what is Brazil’s showcase for the world. According to Riotur, the movement in the economy should reach around R$3 billion, a significant increase from the R$2 billion expected just two years ago in 2015.
Brazilian Airport Infrastructure Company (INFRAERO) estimates that 3.3 million passengers will travel through the terminals across the country between today and the end of the holiday. At Rio’s Tom Jobim (GIG) International Airport, RIOgaleão expects to receive about 400,000 passengers during the Carnival period.
However this is a 2.5 percent reduction than at the same time last year. According to the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association of Rio de Janeiro (ABIH-RJ), the hotel chain registers an average occupancy of 72 percent.
Last year, the average hotel occupancy rate in the city stood at 85.93 percent in the period. This was a positive number according to ABIH-RJ, considering that there were 15,000 more beds available than there were in 2015.
Expatriate in Rio and co-owner of Azteka Mexican restaurant in Ipanema, Aglika Angelova, does not see an increase in tourism, quite the opposite. “There are less tourists this year, for sure. we believe it is due to the general international image of Brazil which has fallen a lot. Crime is up, Zona Sul [South Zone] is still too expensive, and there is definitely uncertainty in the air.”
This year so far Barra da Tijuca is the most sought after neighborhood, with 75 percent occupancy, three percentage points above the general average of the city.
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.
“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.
Following are the neighborhoods of Flamengo and Botafogo, with 73 percent. Copacabana and Leme have 74 percent, while Ipanema and Leblon have 71 percent. The Centro has 67 percent of rooms booked for the holidays.
Areas in the state, outside of the capital city have far exceeded these numbers though. A survey released earlier this week by the ABIH-RJ shows there are already municipalities that register up to 95 percent of hotel occupancy.
“The city is of great importance, especially as it is the gateway for visitors to various parts of the state,” said Tourism Secretary Nilo Sergio Felix.