By Karen Shishiptorova, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Travel Weekly Magazine, issuer of the renowned World Travel Awards, has honored Rio de Janeiro with the title of the best place to visit in South America. The award ceremony is scheduled for November 7 in London and will be aired live by BBC World.
Created in 1993, the poll uses the internet as its main information source and in this issue 200,000 travel agents and industry professionals of 198 countries were behind the choice, which also decreed Ipanema the best stretch of sand in the world.
In albeit unrelated news, Forbes seemed to be thinking along the same lines as Travel Weekly and its network. Last week it published a top fifty list of the world’s happiest cities and ranked Rio de Janeiro as the number one. The four runner-ups were Sydney, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Melbourne.
The data was provided by Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor, author and researcher who specializes in national identity and reputation, public diplomacy and the ‘brand images’ of cities and countries. Mr. Anholt used the 2009 Anholt-GFK Roper City Brands Index, released in June. With headquarters in New York, the GFK Group is one of the world’s largest market research companies. The research was compiled through online interviews with 10,000 respondents in 20 countries.
“Brazil is associated with all these qualities of good humor and good living and Carnival,” says Anholt. “Carnival is very important – it’s the classic image that people have of Rio, and it’s an image of happiness.”
“This is a survey of perception, not a survey of reality,” he added. “People write me all the time and say ‘that’s not true.’ It probably isn’t true, but it’s what people think. The gap between perception and reality is what interests city governments.”
“It’s pretty much the expected bunch,” said Mr. Anholt. “Though I’m a little surprised about Spain outdoing Italy. It’s interesting that the Spanish are perceived as being happier than the Italians – I find the Spanish rather gloomy.”
“Happiness is difficult to quantify, and Anholt acknowledges that his data is less an indicator of where local populations are happiest than a reflection of respondents’ thinking about where they could imagine themselves happy”, stated the Forbes article.
Since no data regarding the nationality of the 10,000 respondents could be found, it was not possible to learn if Cariocas themselves would agree, especially if one looks at happy places such as Sydney and Barcelona. The fact, however, is that Rio de Janeiro – the former capital of Brazil – remains unforgettable to visitors worldwide.
According to the city’s official website, the people of Rio de Janeiro have also been elected as the world’s most cordial in research conducted by the University of Michigan and the University of California. “The overall perception visitors get while walking the streets of Rio is that Cariocas seem very keen on busying themselves with entertainment at every chance they get”, said a tourist interviewed by The Gringo Times.
Search “Rio de Janeiro is the most” on Google and the hundreds of thousands of results return generous adjectives such as, “most spectacular city on the planet”, “most exotic place on earth”, “most electrifying and captivating in the planet”, “most dynamic and stimulating city in the world”, “most fun and lively city that I have ever been to”, “most interesting city in the world” and “almost—if not the most—beautiful city on earth”. All results were retrieved from websites written in English.
Rio has also won runner-up for World’s Best Gay Destination in the TripOut Gay Travel Awards, along with Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London, Montreal and Sydney. The winner will be announced in Boston on November 2.
So Rio de Janeiro is South America’s hotspot, one of the world’s best gay destinations and full of happy and friendly locals. If you haven’t already come here, maybe it’s time you saw it for yourself.