Postponed until April, without a spectacular parade of monumental floats at the Sambadrome, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival week loses its grandeur, a severe blow to the tourism sector in Brazil, already rocked by the pandemic.
In a world without COVID-19, the streets of Rio would be packed with tourists for a week of festivities day and night: in 2020, the “wonderful city” received no less than 2.1 million visitors at the same time.
But in Rio, as in other normally very popular Carnival destinations, fewer travelers are expected, and above all very few foreigners.
For real bullishness, we will have to wait for this zone which hit rock bottom in 2020.
“It was a real blow,” Alexandre Sampio, president of the Brazilian Federation of Hotels and Restaurants (FBHA), told AFP, citing a 35% drop in business in the year that marked the start of pandemic restrictions.
And a rebound of 20% in 2021 is far from making up for the loss.
Rio Carnival week will not be completely devoid of festivities: concerts and private parties will take place with 70% gauge and mandatory vaccination certificates.
But the exponential increase in contamination caused by the Omicron version prompted officials to postpone the parade at the Sambadrome until the end of April.
“It will be enough to make money in April”, unlike last year, thanks to the parade that actually took place, “but will be far from receipts before the pandemic”, condemns Fabio Bentes, economist of the National Confederation of Trade and Tourism (CNC).
And for the week of Carnival, it provides for a one-third cut in turnover compared to the pre-pandemic period.
According to him, the tourism sector represented 7.7% of Brazil’s GDP in 2019, with a turnover of 551.5 billion reais (about 95 billion euros).
Since the arrival of Covid, it has lost 84 billion euros, and 340,000 jobs have been lost.
– “Not too crowded” –
Although Brazil is a tourist destination of choice, and not just in Rio, with the Amazonian jungle, the rich fauna of the Pantanal, the spectacular waterfalls of Iguaçu or the paradisiacal beaches of the northeast.
But the coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the country, which is the second-most bereaved after the United States, which has killed nearly 650,000 people.
The situation has improved due to vaccination progress, but foreign visitors are still rare, with only 5 to 7% of the total before the arrival of the coronavirus, estimated Alexandre Sampio.
Flavio Miranda waits for customers at the bottom of Corcovado Hill, where the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer extends its arms over the city of Rio.
The 52-year-old driver, who lives in a nearby favela, offers to drive visitors to the main tourist attractions.
At the peak of the pandemic, she found herself out of work for eight months, depending on donations, to feed her family.
“Here, it was full of tourists. At the moment, there is hardly anyone, even if it is starting to come back,” he told AFP, specifying that his current income was 80% less than before the pandemic.
– local tourism –
According to experts, the sharp decline in the number of foreign tourists is partly offset by the increase in the number of tourists from Brazil.
“Earlier, we mainly used to travel abroad. But after long months of separation, we decided to move to Rio,” said 40-year-old Maria Augusta Rosa, a civil servant from Goiânia (centre-west).
The area is expected to be completely swamped again in 2023, but those who live by tourism are not safe from other unpleasant surprises.
Remy Harbonnier, which offers cruises on the Amazon and lives in the middle of virgin forest in its Heliconia agency, has seen its activity drop by 80% since the start of the pandemic.
He expects to return to 50% this year, but is now concerned about armed conflict in Ukraine.
“It plays on the exchange rate, the euro is falling, it’s a little scary. But what we’re trying to say is that we’re coming out of two years of covid and we’re going to try to resist the conflict in Europe. are.
Internet geek. Wannabe bacon enthusiast. Web trailblazer. Music maven. Entrepreneur. Pop culture fan.