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Monday, June 9, 2014

World Cup Tourists Jockey for Favela Rooms on Airbnb

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 2:40 PM

  • Welcome, tourists.

Rio de Janeiro is home to some 55,400 hotel beds, not nearly enough to accommodate the 600,000 tourists who will swarm in this week to watch the World Cup soccer games, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

A few of those lucky visitors might manage to bargain, beg, bat their eyes, or somehow force their way into a room. But many are using Airbnb as a recourse, shelling out hundreds a night for a futon bed that might be a half-day's journey from the capital.

And others are staying in favelas, the city's notorious inner-city barrios. Entrepreneurs in Rio are working to turn these crowded, impoverished areas into sharing economy vacation stays, both to increase the city's housing stock and profiteer from this year's largest sporting event.

The rooms normally fetch about $38 a night, and, according to a recent FastCompany article, they're going fast.

Although favela hoteliers present this business proposition as a win-for-all -- tourists get a place to stay, poor residents make a little money, inner-city neighborhoods get to burnish their public image -- some observers, such as FastCompany reporter Ariel Schwartz, wonder whether this isn't a step toward favela gentrification. Airbnb exacerbated the housing crisis in San Francisco by encouraging landlords to convert residential units into short-term vacation squats.

Increased real estate investment and government-sponsored security have already created a gentrification wave in Rio's urban settlements, emblematized by yoga studios and sushi restaurants and the paradoxical phrase "favela chic." Social disparity and a ballooning tourist economy have made the city ripe for despoliation, and unregulated sharing economy platforms like Airbnb could provide the means.

Now, any enterprising social media user can come into the country and create an empire. And, as Schwartz notes, some already have.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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