By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the city of Rio prepares to receive the 2016 Olympic Games this August, accommodations are a key concern for travelers as beds fill up along the spectrum of luxury to economy. An option for the budget or adventure traveler, is staying at one of the many hostels that have opened in the infamous favela communities in the city, and especially those areas that have received UPP (Police Pacification Units).
Since 2008, the UPP program has worked to establish a police presence in areas that were once largely ignored by government services. Especially in some of the favelas in Zona Sul (South Zone), near the popular and affluent tourist areas from Botafogo to Leblon, the UPP has been successful in establishing an increased security presence.
One of the benefits for residents and travelers is a growth in the number of hostels that have opened, and low-cost accommodations for the city. This will certainly come into play in a few months, when Embratur, Brazil’s Institute of Tourism, estimates that 350,000 to 500,000 foreign tourists will arrive in the city to enjoy the Games.
According to government news sources, many hostels in communities with UPPs have reached almost a hundred percent occupancy. To attract visitors during the major Olympics, which begin on August 5th, the hostels are creating packages that include tours through the communities, adding to the appeal.
Eduardo de Figueiredo Barbosa, partner at the Babilônia Rio Hostel said, “We expect to fill our hostel before, during and after the Games. We welcome guests from various nationalities; Russian, English, German, French, Argentineans and Colombians have already booked with us.” Adding, “Everyone staying in the community is enchanted. They want to know the daily life of the community.”
At the Home Hostel Cantagalo, the interest from foreigners has also been great, and the hostel, which offers breakfast and lunch option, expects to reach full occupancy. Simone Pereira, who works there explained, “We have two properties with the same name and are overwhelmed with reservations for the period. To attract even more visitors, we have create sightseeing tours that include a Northeastern [Brazilian] restaurant and the museum of the favela.”
An American living in Rio, Adam Newman, who opened the Favela Experience in Vidigal a year ago and a half ago, told the government news source that also expect to occupy a hundred percent of their beds. “We have the capacity to host about thirty people. We opened the reservations last month and the waiting list is already huge.”