São Paulo state Carnaval samba schools have managed to increase their profits and to attract more tourists, both national and international thanks to the SP Samba project, promoted by the São Paulo state sector of the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae-SP).
"The project is all focused in sustainability," stated the project manager, Camila Patricio.
Started in 2003, the SP Samba project objective is to make the escolas de samba (samba clubs) more professional, generating employment and training possibilities for the communities involved during the whole of the year and not just during Carnaval.
According to Camila, up to the moment, four escolas de samba (samba schools literally) have enrolled in the project: Mocidade Alegre, Unidos da Vila Maria, Sociedade Rosas de Ouro and Peruche. "Our intention is to expand the project to all schools," she said.
The Sebrae consultants, in partnership with the clubs, offer training workshops and promotion. "The backdrop is tourism. It is necessary to promote actions to establish a favorable environment to receive tourists," stated Camila. According to her, it is impressive to see how the number of tourists visiting the schools has risen since the beginning of the project.
Last weekend, for example, around 120 tourists visited the Mocidade Alegre rehearsals. Among them were Americans, Mexicans, Italians and Colombians. To assist them, the schools trained tourist guides, taxi drivers, translators and receptionists.
"The quality of the services improved significantly," said Camila, who also mentioned the cleaning of the bathrooms, presentation of the rehearsal area and even the creation of a souvenir shop.
Another positive point was the establishment of partnerships between schools, travel agencies and hotels. "These partnerships bring greater incentives to schools," said Camila.
In the case of Mocidade, the tourist packages sold by some agencies already include a monitored visit to the rehearsal warehouse and participation in rehearsals in VIP areas. In recent years, around 100 members of the school have already participated in Sebrae courses.
To support the SP Samba project all year around, escolas de samba in São Paulo have to innovate. Last year, for example, Rosas de Ouro started promoting corporate events, organizing workshops to teach the students how to play the drums and the school even played at end of year parties.
Another idea for the samba club this year is the Gastronomic Festival. In March, members of the communities are going to create dishes that represent the school and chefs of large hotels are going to choose the best. The winning recipe should be sold at the rehearsal area, during weekend events.