Last updated: 10:41 AM ET, Thu August 04 2016

Flight Bookings To Rio Take Off

Destination & Tourism | Rich Thomaselli | July 05, 2016

Flight Bookings To Rio Take Off

Photo by David Cogswell

There’s no doubt that the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro has been beset with problems.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has kept high-profile athletes from attending — even one of NBC’s main TV anchors, Savannah Guthrie, is eschewing her coverage duties after learning she is pregnant. A subway extension that will move people around the city still isn’t completed. Waters to be used in boating competitions have been infested with sewage.

Yet all of that doesn’t appear to be inhibiting people from traveling to the majestic Brazilian city for the quadrennial event.

According to ForwardKeys, the London-based travel consultancy which monitors future travel patterns by analyzing 14 million daily reservation transactions, bookings to Rio are “booming.”

The peak arrival is Aug. 4, the day before the opening ceremonies in Rio, although ForwardKeys notes that the uptick in flights to the city actually begins on July 27, a week before the event kicks off.

According to ForwardKeys, when compared with the same dates last year, forward flight bookings are up 148 percent between July 27 and the closing ceremonies of the Olympics on Aug. 21. Fourteen countries account for 72 percent of the advance flight bookings to Rio, with the United States leading the way with 18 percent of the total bookings. ForwardKeys noted that a relaxing of the visa stipulations for travel from the U.S. to Brazil for the duration of the Summer Games might also have played a role in the high booking number for American travelers.

Argentinian travelers have booked 13 percent of the advance flights, and fans from Germany and the United Kingdom have booked 7 percent each.

Certainly this is a boost for a city already known to be one of the more dangerous in the world when it comes to travel — but, frankly, only if you don’t use common sense, like traveling into the favelas (slums) alone or walking alone on the beach at night. Nearly all Olympic host cities have had some issues in the past, however large or small, and this should bode well for Rio’s reputation if it can pull off a flawless Summer Games.

Especially considering the post-Olympics news from ForwardKeys — which is not encouraging.

Compared to the same time period in 2015, advance bookings to Rio de Janeiro from Aug. 21 on are down in a big way. The U.S. and Canada have fallen off by 50 percent, Europe is down 24 percent, and Asia-Pacific advance bookings are down 14 percent.

“We can only speculate on the reason for a drop in post-Olympic bookings compared with the same weeks last year and it may be that health concerns over the Zika virus have been a factor,” Olivier Jager, ForwardKeys Co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.

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