By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The nine-day nationwide protest by truck drivers in Brazil not only led to a shortage of fresh produce at supermarkets and long lines at gas stations, but the cancellation of hotel reservations for the Corpus Christi holiday. Cities, large and small, are reporting cancellations during one of the most profitable four-day holidays this year for the sector.
The Hotel Toriba, located in the bucolic vacation town of Campos do Jordão, São Paulo has 90 luxurious rooms with panoramic views of the mountains. With the increasing number of cancellations by guests unsure they would have enough fuel to take the trip, the hotel hired vans to pick up guests who booked rooms for this extended weekend and live a maximum of three hours away from the hotel.
“We have first time clients who dream about their stay here, as well as our faithful clients who come every year at this time. Our idea is to benefit both sides, as this is also the best holiday for local tourism,” hotel owner, Aref Farkouh, told Brasilturis, a website dedicated to touris in Brazil.
According to the city’s Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Bars (Sinhores) since the truckers’ strike began there has been a 30 percent cancellation rate for the four-day holiday period. “This is the most important annual holiday for the city, accounting for up to 40 percent of annual revenues of some sectors, but this year there were a lot of cancellations from the guests and this will have a big impact both hotels and restaurants,” says Sinhores president, Paulo Cesar da Costa.
The Brazilian Association of Hotels (ABIH) reports that the city of São Paulo registered a 50 percent cancellation rate of its reservations for the past week and for the holiday the expectation is a drop of 20 percent in reservations, despite the occurrence of two of the largest celebrations scheduled, March for Jesus on Thursday and Gay Pride Parade on Sunday.
Gay Pride organizers say they expect the parade, considered the largest LGBT event in the world, to receive less visitors this year but that it will go on as scheduled. “The sound trucks are fueled up and there is no risk of the Parade being cancelled,” they reiterated during a press conference earlier this week.
With the shortage of gas to fill up fuel tanks, towns along the coast of São Paulo state report 90 percent of the holiday bookings have been canceled, since most visitors arrive by private vehicles.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, holiday expectancy remained the same as last year, says ABIH, around 47 percent. Destinations such as the Região dos Lagos (Lakes Region), however, registered cancellations of by 40 percent, according to the entity.
ABIH president, Manoel Cardoso Linhares, said road tourism was the most affected by the strike and fuel shortage but he is still hopeful. “The expectation is that cancellations will decrease with the normalization of (fuel) supply. It’s possible that many decide to travel to nearby destinations at the last minute,” he concluded.