Sun, May 18, 2014 - Page 14 News List

Love hotels, slum hostels seek slice of World Cup pie

By Claire De Oliveira  /  AFP, RIO DE JANEIRO

Chains on April 30 hang in the sadomasochistic suite of a “love hotel” in downtown Rio de Janeiro that is refurbishing its rooms for the FIFA World Cup next month.

Photo: AFP

For those who think the rate for a room in Rio de Janeiro’s hotels during the FIFA World Cup seems a tad expensive, there are always alternatives, such as a room in a “love hotel” or a “pacified” slum.

Brazil’s picturesque former capital will welcome about 400,000 of the 600,000 tourists expected to throng the country during the June 12 to July 13 championship, said Embratur, Brazil’s tourism board. Embratur ranks Rio as the world’s third-most expensive city for hotels after New York and Paris, with average room prices at US$247 a night.

During the World Cup, hoteliers have ratcheted that up to US$484 and prices are even higher in the tourist haven of Copacabana, where they reach US$693, a Trip Advisor report said in March.

Yet the high prices will not keep visitors away from the city, a perennial tourist favorite, Rio’s hotel association said.

The city will have “the highest hotel occupation in the country, at more than 90 percent and 100 percent for the final,” association president Alfredo Lopes predicted.

Brazil has invested US$4 billion in hotel infrastructure nationwide, US$1.5 billion of which is for 250 new hotels in Rio.

“In 2010, we had 29,000 rooms and there will be 6,800 new ones for the World Cup. In 2016, for the Olympic Games, there will be another 13,000 or 50,000 in total,” Lopes said.

Bolstering that number are 12 of the city’s 60 love hotels, which are usually rented by the hour to amorous couples, but have been “reconverted” so they can be added to the World Cup mix.

“The ceiling mirrors have been taken down and the round beds swapped for traditional ones,” Lopes said.

Yet at least one love hotel is cashing in on adventurous tourists who want the rooms as they are.

“Our 87 rooms have already been reserved, even our thematic suites: sadomasochistic, Hollywood, Versailles and the Japanese one. They’ve not been remodeled as they are very much in demand,” said Antonio Cerqueira, who owns the Villa Reggia.

Cerqueira’s sadomasochistic room boasts black walls, a leather-covered round bed and chains dangling from a high ceiling.

Cerqueira, who is also vice president of the Association of Love Hotels, said 1,000 rooms will be available for World Cup fans for US$100 to US$375 a night; cheaper than many traditional hotels.

Although Rio’s favelas are infamously bastions of gang violence and drug trafficking, the past six years have seen police move in to “pacify” an rising number of slums.

Coinciding with that has been a growth in small hostels in the earliest “pacified” favelas — the ones overlooking Copacabana Beach.

These hostels are a draw for backpackers and offer a spectacular view, though many can only be reached via perilous climbs.

Cristiane de Oliveira, 42, opened the Favela Inn at Chapeu Mangueira favela in 2010. She offers three rooms with bunk bed, bathroom and Wi-Fi for US$20 a night per person in the low season and US$25 in the high season.

“During the World Cup, it will be US$45,” she said.

De Oliveira said there has been a “fall-off in tourists” since November last year, when drug traffickers started to attack the police pacification units in the favelas.

“The media only reflects the violent image of the favelas and never shows the good side: samba, joy, people helping one another,” she lamented.

Pablo Gomes, 35, last year opened the Green Culture Hostel, which can house 25 guests.

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