About a week ago, Oct 6th to be exact, the major US media outlet, CNN, produced an article entitled: “Rio 2016: City grapples with wave of crime on beaches as Olympics near”. Around the world vewers read and saw the headline and news article plus film.
The long CNN article and accompanying film speaks about Rio’s famous “grab and run” attacks against tourists on its most famous beaches, the fact that police tend to be trigger happy on the city’s crowded beaches and lacking training put tourists at risk, the city’s vigilante gangs, and the city’s general chaos and lack of security. The article points out that all this is occurring just one year prior to Rio’s holding the Olympics and questions if the city will be ready. For those who know Brazil, its crime and potential Olympic terrorism mixed with a potentially unstable political situation creates a potential for a major crisis.
Only after the Olympic games have faded into history, will we know if Rio made a major mistake in hosting the Olympics. The games are not inexpensive to host and the city is undergoing a major face lifting. Unfortunately, less money appears to have been invested in personnel, in security equipment and in coordination between the tourism people, the police and private security companies. Only time will tell if Rio was lucky and escaped without a major incident or if the city confused its past good luck with good planning. What we do know is that Rio’s already poor security reputation is being destroyed by a “thousand cuts.”
The odds are that thousands of tourists will come to Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics. The question is what these people and the hundreds of foreign journalists who will be in the city during the Olympic Games will report both during their stay and once they return home. Will they describe Rio as a city at war? Will they advise their friends and colleagues to avoid Rio due to its lack of safety and security? It is essential that Rio de Janeiro’s political leadership understand that security is much more than merely purchasing some new cameras. Cameras are important but if there is not an overall security plan, and if Rio does not protect both its visitors and its reputation, then the long-term outlook for Rio de Janeiro is not good.
Many people tend to judge Brazil by what happens in Rio de Janeiro. From the perspective of international tourism, Rio de Janeiro is Brazil! People around the world mistakenly believe that what happens in Rio de Janeiro happens throughout the country. Should the city receive a great deal of negative publicity during the Olympics then not only will Rio’s tourism be hurt for years to come, but all of Brazil will suffer not only in its tourism sector but also in the nation’s long-term economic growth.
In the world of tourism, perceptions about a place may not be true, but the consequences of that perception are always true. View the film and read the article at:
<http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/06/sport/rio-2016-olympics-security-robbery/index.html> would you want to visit Rio after viewing it.
To make the Olympics a success, Rio de Janeiro will have to take tourism security seriously. It cannot simply rely on good luck or the Brazilian army. It will have to control prices and teach customer service. The city will also have to decide how much a negative headline is going to cost it for years to come.
Let’s pray that Rio de Janeiro’s citizens and city leaders make the wise decision.