The party must go on, and it did. Despite the Zika virus threat, Brazil’s legendary Carnival hit the streets all over the country, drawing record numbers of revelers to festivities from Salvador de Bahia in the north to Santa Catarina in the south. And in Rio de Janeiro, tickets to Carnival’s samba school parades at the 90,000-seat Sambodromo recorded a hefty increase in sales over the last year, with the majority of the customers being international visitors.
It may come as a surprise in the country hit hardest by Zika, but Brazil’s tourism authorities expect this year’s Carnival season may tally record highs, once all the visitor figures are in. “Due in part to the appreciation of U.S. currency and the promotion of Brazil by Embratur (Brazil Tourism Board) abroad for this season, we achieved excellent results in international visitor arrivals,” said Vinicius Lummertz, president of Embratur. “Rio alone has welcomed more than one million tourists so far this year, and hotel occupancy increased 15 percent compared to last year.” Those figures include a record hotel occupancy rate of 85 percent during Carnival.
Prior to the Rio festivities, several thousand workers fanned out in a major fumigation effort against the Zika-virus-bearing mosquito, including an intensive spraying of the Sambodromo. During Carnival, local hostesses on Copacabana Beach and elsewhere distributed leaflets with Zika information. The party has ended, apparently for a record number of guests. Therefore, one wonders how to judge an interesting observation made by a BBC reporter: Carnival may be a test of whether fear of the Zika may scare tourists from Rio’s next major event, the Olympics, the city hosts this August and September. For more information, go to visitbrasil.com.