By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As Brazil’s heads towards becoming the first country in South America to host an Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro can expect a different kind of visitor to those that came to enjoy the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Greater in number, concentrated in the city and likely to be associated with the Games, Rio is preparing to swell.
In July 2014, when Argentina reached the final of the football competition, thousands of Argentineans flooded in from their neighboring country to watch the match in Rio. Often arriving by road with no place to stay, many ended up sleeping on the beach or settling in makeshift camps.
By contrast, visitors to the 2016 Olympic Games are likely to be associated with the organizers in some way. With 10,500 athletes competing in 42 sports, plus many sponsors, officials, international federation delegates and national governing bodies, the Olympic Family alone comprises thousands of people.
On top of that number, Embratur, Brazil’s Institute of Tourism, is estimating that 350,000 to 500,000 foreign tourists will arrive in the city to enjoy the Games. During the World Cup, 471,000 foreigners came to Rio, as well as 415,000 Brazilians. There is no estimate yet for Brazilian spectators coming to Rio 2016.
Olympic visitors are expected to behave differently from those who came for the World Cup. They are likely to stay in the city for longer since all the events will be concentrated in the metropolis and, given the distances between the venues, they are likely to travel more.
“During the World Cup, the movements were concentrated among the hotels of Copacabana and Maracanã. The Olympics tourists will move more,” Andre Coelho, a tourism specialist at FGV Projetos, told Folha de São Paulo.
Over fifty percent of the events will take place in the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, in the West Zone, while other competitions will happen at Deodoro (also in the West Zone but deceptively far from Barra), at the Maracanã in Zona Norte (North Zone) and on Copacabana Beach in Zona Sul (South Zone) meaning vast numbers of fans and officials will be traversing the city.
Though improvements have been made to Rio’s transport system, it is expected to come under great pressure during the Games. Rio has famously bad traffic, that is exacerbated by bottlenecks and tunnels between different areas of the city. Residents and tourists alike will be encouraged to take the new Linha 4 of the metro, which is due to open in July linking Barra to Zona Sul, the Light Rail Vehicle (VLT) or the Rapid Bus Transit (BRT).
Rio’s hotels are mostly at capacity. The International Olympic Committee has already booked out a large proportion of of the city’s 37,000 rooms for the Olympic Family. Global brands, such as the Hilton and Hyatt, have expanded to meet demand and AirBnb has been brought on board as an official partner to supply accommodation for visitors.
While they are in the city, Olympics tourists are likely to spend more money in bars, restaurants and on cultural attractions than those who came for the World Cup. According to the Observatorio de Turismo of the Universidade Federal Fluminense, the average daily spend a tourist during the Cup, including transportation, accommodation, shopping and leisure, was R$639.32. With food included that figure rose by R$106.47.