By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – Continued financial turmoil in Europe is likely to diminish numbers of foreign visitors to Rio during Carnival this year, experts predict, but increased domestic tourism will likely more than compensate for the shortfall in visitors. However the different tourist profile has some concerned that lower spending levels are likely during Rio’s largest annual holiday.

Crowds gather at the Sambódromo to watch the free technical rehearsals before Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Crowds gather at the Sambódromo to watch the free technical rehearsals before Carnival, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

“In past Carnivals there was an average of between 65 and 70 percent of foreign tourists recorded in hotels, and the rest were Brazilians,” Alfredo Lopes, the President of Brazilian Association of Rio’s Hotel Industry, ABIH-RJ, told The Rio Times. “For Carnival 2013 the forecast is that this number will be equal – fifty percent foreigners and the other half Brazilian.”

Domestic tourism has increased dramatically in Brazil in recent years, rising in lockstep with the move from poverty into the middle class of some 35 million Brazilians. According to figures from Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism, domestic travel, measured by the number of passengers arriving on domestic flights was almost fifty million in 2010. In 2012 that number had almost doubled to ninety million.

Lopes attributes the predicted decrease in the number of foreign visitors at Carnival 2013 to the financial downturn in Europe and the United States, which also affected 2012’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in Rio, known here as Reveillon.

“The average occupancy of hotels in Rio stood at 92.32 percent in the New Year’s Eve, about five percentage points lower than last year,” Lopes said. “We attribute this decline to the crisis in the U.S. and Europe, which led to a New Year’s Eve majority of Brazilians.”

Another factor is the soaring cost of living in Brazil, and a August 2011 report listed Brazil’s two biggest cities, Rio and São Paulo, ranked amongst the top fifteen most expensive cities in the world for expatriates – ahead of New York, London and Paris. From travel and lodging, to food and beverage, Rio is more expensive than many other options for international travelers.

Increased domestic tourism is anticipated for Carnival 2013, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Increased domestic tourism is anticipated for Carnival 2013, photo by Andréia Bohner/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Yet despite fewer foreign revelers, Lopes expects Carnival to be even more well-attended than last year, as Brazilians take advantage of their rising wages and increased access to credit to visit Rio’s biggest party.

The Tourism Secretariat estimates that 900,000 people will come to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival this year, spending US$665 million.

“We hope to reach 98 percent occupation of hotel rooms in the city. In 2012, we closed the Carnival with a 95.17 percent occupancy rate,” he said, adding that, “Domestic tourism for the Carnival period is equalizing with international tourism.”

International tourism is still generally doing well: visitor exports reached US$7 billion in 2011, and Embratur figures show 9.24 million passengers arriving on international flights in 2012, compared to 5.8 million in 2010 and nine million in 2011.

Despite the influx of Brazilian tourists expected for Carnival, the news is still worrying for local businesses, as different spending and vacationing habits could result in weaker profits. “The domestic market generally do not buy packages that include services other than lodging,” Mr. Lopes said. “More Brazilians tend to rent apartments, stay with relatives or stay in hostels. This can result in a probable loss of revenue for hotels in the city.”

According to research by the World Travel and Tourism Council, around 7.7 million jobs in Brazil are supported by travel and tourism and the wider impacts of the sector, representing nearly eight percent of all employment in the country.


  1. many chicagoans use to go to rio for the fun and sun but the apartment rents were so high and the airfare was just out of the question… we chose other locations to travel to for much less money…. brazil has priced itself out of lots of visitor markets

  2. For many Americans like myself who have traveled to Rio dozens of times since the 1980s, the pricing of apartments, hotels, restaurants, Carnaval tickets, etc. has sadly turned us away. Rio is wonderful, the beaches, the culture, the scenic beauty of the place is unique. But who wants to spend $450-500/night for a shabby 2 bedroom apartment, $40.
    for a simple pasta at an okay restaurant, $650. for a bleacher seat at the Sambodromo? Rio is great, but it ain’t NYC, Paris, Rome, London, Sydney, where you can get by for far less. Those of us who fell in love with Brasil for many years are starting to move on. Its sad, but I’d rather visit South Africa, Asia, Europe or Australia for sixty cents on the dollar compared with Brasil.

  3. Another problem what most people (lack of understanding of economics) miss is, the US dollar has lost and continue to loose value vs major currencies like the Brazilian real, plus the economic crisis in the US (people have to cut back and have less access to cheap credit)and in Europe are keeping people home or force them to cut back. The so called “credit crisis” in the US and Europe aren’t over nor solved.


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