By Donitra Clemons, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The countdown to the United Nations’ Rio+20 conference has begun, and already over 95 percent of the city’s hotels are booked to capacity. Of the few remaining hotel rooms available, prices are up to five times as much per night and with only weeks left, some attendees are having to find alternative accommodations or opting not to attend.
The eleven-member Parliamentary delegation from the European Union that was scheduled to attend the conference, has been whittled down significantly to only one or two due to the exorbitant hotel costs.
“The huge increase in the estimated cost of attending the summit is simply not justifiable, especially at a time when many Europeans are faced with economic hardship,” said Environment Committee Chairman Matthias Groote in response to the costs.
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, the head of the EU contingent also commented, “The Brazilian government should have taken action to avoid hotels abusing their position. That’s also part of the responsibility of hosting such a large conference.”
As there are many international eyes judging major events in Rio as a barometer for the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazilian officials are not sweeping this accommodations issue under the rug. The Secretary of the National Organization Committee of Rio+20, Laudemar Aguiar stated the Brazilian government plans to investigate the Brazilian Association of Hotels, about the allegations excessive increases of hotel rates in Rio during the conference.
Many attendees are indeed searching for other options outside of the traditional hotel industry. Rio Exclusive, which offers temporary apartment rentals for a wide range of budgets throughout the city, is almost fully booked but still has some accommodations available close to the Rio+20 Barra de Tijuca event site, in neighboring Joatinga.
Unlike many, they say on average their pricing has not increased for the week of the conference, but availability is limited.
“Full occupancy isn’t out of the ordinary as Rio+20 is a major event, and with Rio not having as many quality hotels as many other major cities, it’s not surprising that our properties are very close to full occupancy,” says Mike Rollins of Rio Exclusive.
Some attendees are also taking advantage of the city’s pousadas. Also known as, bed and breakfasts, pousadas are usually an upgrade from your typical hostel and generally preferable for business travel. Casa 579, a pousada located in Santa Teresa, maintained it’s competitive prices during Rio+20.
Another option is for foreigners that are not fluent in Portuguese is Airbnb, a website platform established so those with extra space in their home, can easily rent the space. Airbnb was initially established to provide lodging alternatives for attendees of a conference in San Francisco when the city ran out of hotel rooms, and comes in handy for major cities such as Rio as well.
Ylza who has been an Airbnb host since November 2011, has three rooms available during Rio+20 in Copacabana. “I am charging sixty percent more than usual, (but it’s still) cheaper than a room in a hotel with the same quality.” says Ylza.