Last updated: 12:27 PM ET, Tue August 11 2015

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  • Greg Custer | August 11, 2015 12:27 PM ET

    Rio CVB Extols a New Rio de Janeiro

    Rio CVB Extols a New Rio de Janeiro

    Photo courtesy of Rio CVB

    The Rio Olympic Games (August 5-21, 2016) crossed the important one-year-to-go milestone this past week. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes hosted a gala on August 5, which included a spirited defense of the Olympic preparations at this momentous waypoint. With Olympic games coming under greater public scrutiny, Paes countered with an upbeat assessment of how the Games will change Rio.

    TravelPulse interviewed Michael Nagy, Director of the Rio de Janeiro CVB, getting his take on the Olympic countdown, the games and beyond.

    Q: Infrastructure and stadiums are reportedly coming in under budget and ahead of schedule. How will the Olympics change Rio for the future?

    A: The city (of) Rio and its mayor Eduardo Paes are ensuring we don’t have any “white elephants” after the games. This is fantastic for us residents of Rio de Janeiro. We will have products that will be sustainable and infrastructure that will actually benefit the cariocas (Rio natives) and ensure a better lifestyle. This is the biggest legacy for Rio, all being built under budget and on time. The city is already getting better. The availability of public transport will make lives better, which bring us closer to being a sustainable city. Rio will be the best city in South America and much like any European city. Public transport will become a way of life. Visitors will now see the city from a cariocas point of view, which is the way a visitor should see a city.

    Q: Hotel infrastructure is also expanding, what can agents expect in terms of new lodging?

    A: We doubled our capacity and occupancy due to the World Cup. There’s been lots of change. Sheraton and Hyatt have fantastic property in Barra de Tijuca, site of most Olympic events. Hilton is in Barra as well. The Trump hotel will be ready by the end of year. Marriott is here with two new properties. We have Windsor Group, a Brazilian chain with some 4,000 rooms in the city. Plus our world-renowned beach areas of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon have over 19,000 rooms, both on the beach and around the area. Downtown Rio has seen remarkable changes. You have cultural heritage, music, Brazilian gastronomy, and all accessible by metro. We will have over 9,000 sleeping rooms in downtown.

    Barra de Tijuca will be the best destination for events in South America. We have the largest convention in South America, Rio Centro. Windsor Hotels is developing 2,000 square-meter convention space on the beach. So there will be some 12,000 rooms in the Tijuca region.

    Fact is today Rio has become city for everyone. We have fantastic hostels being built, so all ranges — from backpacker to the more (sophisticated) traveler, (including) luxury, and families (categories). Rio has this capacity thanks to the legacy from the World Cup and Olympics.

    Q: So the Rio product is more diverse, including brand new mass transit. So areas not commonly appreciated are opening to visitors?

    A: Rio has become a destination for 14-15 days and you can never do the same thing twice during your stay. Dynamic attractions of the city are now accessible, with products for everyone. Logistics around the city make Rio the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (“Marvelous City”) it is know as.

    Q: About 660,000 Americans visited Brazil in 2014. As we reported on July 15 on, the Global Entry agreement between Brazil and the U.S. is an important steppingstone for visa simplification. How confident are you there will be visa reform before the Olympic games?

    A: It’s more of a political issue between governments, but I’m very confident. On the sixth of May our President Rousseff sanctioned online visa capabilities. Brazil is studying countries around the world that uses this system. This will facilitate and expedite the time for getting visas, making everybody’s life easier. Our Minister of Tourism declared last week he is working this as his top priority. Having visa situation liberated will help agents sell and send people down.

    Q: How about U.S. activities the Rio CVB will be launching?

    A: (The) U.S. market is one of the key markets to Brazil. We will be working effectively in the market with campaigns to travel groups to make the America public come to Brazil, and have a full experience they deserve. We did a sweepstake program in the U.S. that was highly successful and yielded over 127,000 consumer leads. We were totally amazed by this. We will be launching a consumer-landing site with packages around Rio and the whole country of Brazil.

    The whole focus is to promote Rio, New Year’s Eve, Carnaval, Olympic and 14 “Experience Packages” that are all tailor-made. Also, every month we’ll be launching new packages around Olympic “test” events. This gives people a chance to have an Olympic experience in Rio. Many people will not be able to attend the games due to hotel availability.

    We want to educate agents while we showcase the destination as the whole world is talking about Brazil and the Rio Games. We want agents so proficient at promoting and selling Brazil that consumers don’t go somewhere else. Knowledge leads to respectability; so trained agents can showcase their knowledge and show they know what they are talking about. This is our big challenge.

    We will also be doing a series of “roadshows” and events in the next year in the U.S., together with Embratur. 


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Greg Custer All Things LatAm

Greg Custer Greg Custer is a California native with more than 35 years working in various international travel industry capacities. He spent 14 years in aviation (TWA, Mexicana, Aerocalifornia). With a love for studying all things Latin America, (BA/MA UCLA, Latin American Studies) he is a leading authority on travel agent educational programs for Latin American tourism boards. Greg is fluent in written and spoken Spanish and has conducted hundreds of training workshops for travel agents. He is an accomplished travel photographer and author (with wife Jane) of the “Magic of Mexico” travel agent study guide. He resides in Ajijic (Jalisco) Mexico, enjoying one foot in the modern world and the other in Mexican pueblo life.
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