Going to the Rio Olympics: A Few Suggestions

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I have my tickets and I hope you do too. Brazil expects some 200,000 Americans and perhaps some 500,000 guests for the Games. That’s a lot of people and represents a substantial amount of money for Rio and Brazil.

If you are a permanent resident of Brazil, here is the site for purchasing tickets. (https://ingressos.rio2016.com/) There are a few tickets left. Just as in the World Cup, tour companies, ticket hackers and businesses jumped in early and scarfed up most of the seats either for corporate rewards and prestige or for future resale with a nice mark up.

If you are a US resident, here is the site for purchasing tickets. (https://www.cosport.com/) According to the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee, there is only one official ticket outlet. Nevertheless, if you Google ‘Olympic tickets’ there are hundreds of possibilities. A great majority offers legitimate tickets but a word of caution is always good.

Brazil is in the midst of a major political crisis accompanied by an economic depression. By August, when the games start, Brazil will be in its third year of negative growth and rising inflation.   It is also well known that street crime in Brazil is as bad and sometimes worse than New Orleans, Chicago or Baltimore. If you are fearful of nighttime escapades in those downtowns, you might want to think about how you are going calm your nerves in Rio’s urban jungle. Tourists can be prey, especially if you have a tendency to make yourself a mark. My recommendation is to leave the expensive watches, gold jewelry and other portable and more ostentatious valuables at home and go out with a group. Everyone in Brazil has a cell phone or two, so that is not a big deal but if you are careless your iPhone 6 might disappear and “find my phone” will not provide a remedy.

Adding injury to insult, Brazil is also the epicenter of the Zika crisis. This latest epidemic comes as the country finishes preparations for the games. Some sensationalists have proposed cancelling the games but, on the other hand, Carnaval has just ended and millions of revelers in shorts, bustiers, bikinis and flip-flops hit the streets in defiance of the aedes aegyptius mosquito. While real, Zika appears to be another of the many health worries in a shrinking and interconnected world. In the past, we have feared Ebola, chicken-driven influenza, Chikungunya, SARS, and a host of others. Zika creates panic because of its possible association with the occurrence of microcephalia. While the true impacts of the disease are still unfolding, it seems that Zika may be, in reality, less harmful in scale than say dengue fever or malaria, which follow the same transmission path.

So assuming you have tickets or can obtain them and you have gotten past the health, security, economic/social/political tension, you still need to find a place to stay. If you are with an organized tour group, most likely hotel reservations have been secured. If not, you may have trouble. Rio has lots of hotels but accommodations meeting international standards are lacking. All of the hotel rooms will be full and the Rio Olympic Committee has struck a deal with AirBnB in order to make up for the shortage. The issue with AirBnB will of course be location and if the accommodations actually meet the expectations of the traveler. Rio is a big city spread out along hundreds of kilometers of coast and mountains. So if you don’t know the neighborhoods and routes, you could wind up in the wrong place. Last year, drug dealers and bandits fatally shot a couple that accidentally drove into the gang lord’s turf attempting to follow instructions with a GPS application. Aside from possible danger, roads are normally clogged and traffic flows slowly.   Just as an example, from the Windsor Hotel in Copacabana/Leme to the Olympic Village, it is only about 12 miles. This trip could take as little as 25 minutes or as long as a couple of hours.   Also what are you going to do if inhabitants of Rocinha, a favela community that sits abreast of the route, decide to shut down the roadway as has happened in the past?

Getting around physically and maneuvering the cultural challenges of a big Latin American city are important considerations.  Buy hey, it is the Olympics and Rio.  Once you are there, aside from the sports events, Rio has lots and lots of attractions. The physical beauty is spectacular and trips to Corcovado and Pao de Acucar are almost minimum requirements for photo ops. Pedra da Gavea, Tijuca Forest and the Botanical Gardens are also high on the list of places to see and this, of course, goes without mentioning the beaches. But again remember to plan.  During the Games, waiting for the trams that take you up to Corcovado or Sugar Loaf may involve lines of more than 3 to 4 hours. No fun!

Eating, drinking, and hanging out are basic parts of Carioca (residents of Rio) life. But as a gringo, how do you know where to go? Obviously, there are tour guides, Yelp, books, magazines and more information than you can process on the Internet. Still, it is best to find and hang out with locals who can make recommendations and engage in these activities with you. So with 6 months to go, it is time to build your network through social media and see whom you might find compatible.

For people in the know and people with reliable contacts and set ups, the Games are going to be very special and an amazing amount of fun. But if you arrive and you are not well prepared, then the logistics and the confusion of Rio may sap away all your energy and you could come away feeling bad. Plan, be flexible and enjoy the Brazilians, the fun and the Games.

Boa Sorte or Good Luck!!!

 

High Holy Holidays: Super Bowl and Carnaval

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Brazilian and US holy days seldom fall on the same weekend. This year is different. Carnaval has it apotheosis today and Saints Rihanna and Manning provided their expected and unexpected entertainment miracles in the Super Bowl on Sunday, as Denver, the underdog, beat the Carolina Panthers.

It remains to be seen if Dilma, who un-impeached, still pedals her bike (note for newbies, this is an reference to the President’s frequent bike rides and more obliquely to her use of questionable economic fiscal measures) and whether the economy can maneuver more favorably. The weakening of the Real has led to improvement in the balance of payments and according to Bloomberg, (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-02-08/are-we-missing-a-bright-turnaround-story-in-brazil), “Brazil reported the best trade numbers since records began” and the dollar has held at 4 Reais or a bit less. Either this is prescient or just a stab in the dark by a journalist with little foresight. I’m not sure.

But can we envision green shoots as the Brazilian work year officially begins after Carnaval? I would like to be optimistic and believe that the economic cycle is bottoming. Here’s an earlier blog regarding this:(https://allabroadconsulting.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/brazil-to-the-bottom-and-no-bounce/)

The trouble is that the political environment remains totally unstable with unresolved major questions. While Dilma’s impeachment appears extremely remote, the country still needs to deal with both Eduardo Cunha (President of the House Representatives) under investigation for corruption and undeclared dollar holdings in Switzerland. Renan Calheiros, Dilma’s erstwhile ally in the Senate, also faces an ongoing investigation into his illicit dealings. Marcelo Odebrecht, the President of Brazil’s largest multinational construction company continues in jail without trial, while his cohorts from Andrade Gutierrez (the second largest builder) have been released on a plea bargain and an “acordo de leniência”. Cutting the construction companies some slack is important, as they are potential powerhouses for boosting any growth. Ideally, Judge Moro – the driver behind the main Lava Jato (Petrobras) investigations – can bring this major case to some kind of conclusion this year.

Still Petrobras, suffering from the double whammy of corruption and falling oil prices, has reached the $2 per share range (PBR 2/9/16 on the NYSE at US 2.90). While the PT and nationalists rage against privatizations, the oil company’s solution rests in the sell off of assets. Effectively, the corruption scandals associated with the PT management have driven the company in the direction that party ideologues are loath to admit. The electrical energy sector also continues to see reductions in its valuations, although energy rates are beginning to move up. Despite all of this, the Bovespa has amazingly done a bit better than the Dow so far this year.

I continue to predict rough 2016 of economic lows. Any recovery will depend on better political leadership from Dilma. This might be too much to expect, as the Zika virus crisis seems to demonstrate. Dilma’s tweets on the virus have been insipid (see the Twitter Dilmabr).

On another note, the municipal elections this year are a positive. And the successful staging of the Olympics will give Brazil a bit more breathing space.

Brazil has so much strength and potential that it will indeed survive and even eventually thrive. Unlike Argentina, with its secular decline or Venezuela, which suffers from its dependency on oil (plus the Chavez-Maduro debacle), Brazil will recover if the people can only get past their leadership and the weight of history.

It is a difficult journey but one that the saints (and sinners) of Carnaval might help along once the festivities end on Feb. 10.

(The lead picture is actually from the Argentine carnaval of 2015-Here is the link:http://misionesonline.net/2015/01/16/una-carroza-homenajea-al-papa-en-el-carnaval-de-gualeguaychu/)

Brasil e Mexico: Turismo Diferenciado

E’ véspera de carnaval e acabo de retornar de umas ferias em Baja California Sur. Precisamente percorri La Paz, San Jose Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas e Todos Santos. A região ha 50 e poucos anos atrás não tinha quase nada. Hoje e’ um dos pólos turísticos do México, sendo o balneário favorito de americanos e outros estrangeiros.

Baja California Sur e’ a metade sulina da península de Baja California. E’ relativamente isolada do resto do México, exceto por meio aéreo. Verdade que ha’ grandes barcos, que cruzam o mar de Cortez, ligando a península ao continente. Entretanto a viagem e’ bem demorada. La Paz, a capital e centro administrativo do estado, recebe um numero razoável de turistas que chegam pelo aeroporto local vindos em vôos diretos dos EUA, do Canadá e das principais cidades Mexicanas.

San Jose Los Cabos e Cabo San Lucas são duas cidades separadas que formam uma única região metropolitana através de um corredor turístico de aproximadamente 30 kms ao longo da orla que liga o Mar de Cortez ao Oceano Pacifico

Os brasileiros estão mais acostumados a freqüentar as praias de Cancun no Caribe e portanto conhecem pouco a região.

Quando se sai dos EUA para o México, nota-se imediatamente a passagem do primeiro para o terceiro mundo. Na região de Baja California Sur, isto também e’ verdade. Entretanto, pode-se encastelar dentro dos resorts. Assim tem se uma experiência com serviços e acomodações de primeira grandeza a um preço mais barato do que o semelhante nos EUA ou Europa. Chegando ao México vindo do Brasil, o choque cultural e’ menor. Contudo, os brasileiros não tem nem de longe a mesma tradição e estrutura de turismo que os Mexicanos tem. O México tem uma longa tradição principalmente devido a vizinhança dos EUA mas também pelos muitos méritos incluindo a cultura e artefatos pré-colombianos, as praias lindas, montanhas e vulcões e muitos sítios históricos.

Embora o Brasil possa se gabar e com razão, seu turismo nunca foi explorado de uma forma consistente. Enquanto o México tem mais de 25 milhões de turista por ano, o Brasil tendo 3 vezes o território e quase 2 vezes a população do México, recebe 5 ou 6 milhões de turistas. E’ certo que o Brasil fica distante e isolado, embora nem tanto, especialmente com as Olimpíadas chegando e vôos internacionais razoavelmente baratos.

O Brasil poderia aprender com o México a profissionalizar o setor de turismo. No México, os aeroportos funcionam melhor e são mais bem equipados. As pessoas do setor são mais bem treinadas e falam inglês. No geral, os taxistas não fazem malandragens e a segurança na ruas e melhor do que no Brasil.

A visita a Cabo mostrou-me que ha oportunidades abertas para o Brasil. Sei que ha empresários sérios no Brasil e que ha curiosidade e demanda latente. No momento Brasil esta sendo bombardeada pelas mas noticias que abrangem desde o vírus, a violência, a depressão econômica e a crise política. Não ha, entretanto, crise que dure para sempre e ha’ muitos atrativos, inclusive a possibilidade de bons investimentos. Falta trabalhar um pouco mais com a cabeça na busca de parcerias produtivas. Investidores europeus e americanos ainda existem e buscam bons negócios.