American Stefanie Michaels, international travel expert and journalist returned from Brazil this month with concerns and warnings for potential tourists traveling to Rio de Janeiro, in the Brazilian southeast.
With a potent mix of crime on the rise, the upcoming Carnaval festivities to begin, a dengue epidemic appearing in two districts of the city, and Brazilian Tourism offices opening in several locations around the world to "positively" promote Rio, Michaels believes more issues concerning the safety of tourists will arise without pertinent information getting to them first.
"I am really concerned about the efforts of Brazil’s government and tourism offices in getting information to people wanting to visit Brazil," says Michaels, "and I am not hearing any major move on the government’s part to warn tourists of the recent outbreak of dengue fever, which in 2002 killed 100 people and nearly 740,000 people contracted the virus – now on the rise again in two areas of the city – as well as the constant and growing crime against tourists who travel there. Something has to be done about getting the info out to people booking Brazil."
Michaels blames the lack of information to a "look the other way mentality" and Brazil’s weak economy needing tourist dollars.
"Listen, these tourism bureaus understand the idea of who would want to travel to a country where you have to constantly be on high alert against thieves or you could potentially catch a virus that can kill you?" states Michaels.
"I get why the tourism bureaus sugar coat their interests, but then they need to be held responsible, and that is not happening."
Michaels points out recent reports out of Rio, where a bus was set a fire by gangsters and five people were burned alive, or the huge brawl that took place on Ipanema Beach January 16th, where 50 people – rival gangs from two different slums – were involved swinging bats, tables and chairs in the midst of sunbathers.
"Rio is just not safe for travelers to visit. My friend was followed to his room and beaten up when the person found his money was locked in his safe, and friends were robbed on the beach in broad daylight,"
Michaels cautions, "and until I was sure the government was really doing something about keeping visitors safe, I would find another place to visit. If you are all ready committed to going, then by all means Google recent press releases on Rio and be prepared."
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