After recent police strikes, Brazil’s traditional Carnival celebration was in jeopardy. Editor Lily J. Kosner checks on travel safety at one of the world’s largest and costliest Carnivals and lays out what you need to know this year.
Every year 4 million revelers, including 500,000 foreign travelers, head to Rio de Janeiro and until two days ago the entire celebration had been in jeopardy.
After two weeks of police protests, the city saw the beginnings of a bloody crime wave that many fear could have escalated. Locals were worried that a strike during Carnival could produce mayhem as was seen when police in Bahia’s capital Salvador choose to strike. Their strikes resulted in 150 homicides in one week, doubling the city’s murder rate.
However late on Monday, the police ended the strike to ensure that their 70,000 officers were on hand for Carnival. It’s a good thing that all hands are on deck because Carnival in Rio is far from a small affair. Millions of partiers crowd the already overpopulated city.
While Carnival originated as a local festival with the groups formed from slum communities, today it is big business. Last year, 4.9 million people attended the over 400 parties in the city producing in today about $873 in business, $750 million in tourism revenue. In 2011, 96 percent of the city’s hotels were fully booked. According to a survey conducted by the Syndicate of Hotels, Bars and Restaurants (SindRio) as of January 30, 71 percent of hotel bed are now booked this year with room rates rising on average to 17.6 percent. In addition to tourism, corporate sponsorship deals for the parades and samba schools can bring in up to $500,000 an endorsement.
Travel tip: Plan ahead for Carnival and make sure to have some cash on hand. Not only are banks closed for the festivities, but often ATMs can run dry. Keep your wallet stocked and it doesn’t hurt to have another emergency stash in a shoe or pocket.