Carnival without blocks frustrates street vendors and shopkeepers

Carnival without blocks frustrates street vendors and shopkeepers

the second year of Atypical Carnival in Brazil due to the Covid-19 pandemic causes reflexes that go beyond the revelry calendar and also affect economic activity.

THE The tourism sector should have an improvement compared to 2021, but still insufficient to resume the pre-crisis level of business, projects the CNC (National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism).

Meanwhile, the cancellation of street blocks thwarts plans and raises concern among merchants, street vendors and entertainment workers.

In 2022, tourism should generate R$ 6.45 billion in activities resulting from the holiday in Brazil, predicts the CNC. The estimate is 21.5% higher than last year’s result (R$ 5.31 billion), when the sector suffered a tumble amid greater restrictions on the movement of people.

Despite the improvement compared to last year, the projected number is still 33.7% below Carnival 2020 (R$ 9.74 billion), before the outbreak of the pandemic. The data, adjusted for inflation, consider the business of activities such as accommodation, food away from home and air transport.

The economist Fabio Bentes, from CNC, says that tourism depends more on the holiday itself than on the Carnival blocks. But he believes that the downfall of these events, associated with the recent advance of Covid-19 and the worsening of consumption conditions in Brazil, makes it difficult to return to the pre-crisis level.

“The movement of tourism must fluctuate between the Carnival of 2020, before the pandemic, and that of 2021, which was a tragedy for the sector. Thus, the recovery process is postponed. It is pushed forward”, says Bentes.

In Rio de Janeiro, the city hall announced in early January the cancellation of street blocks due to the new advance in coronavirus cases. The Sapucaí samba school parade was rescheduled for April.

If the traditional schedule were maintained, the hotel chain in Rio could reach around 95% of occupancy at the end of February, projects Alfredo Lopes, president of HotéisRIO (Sindicato dos Meios de Alojamentos of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro).

Without the blocks, the estimate falls back to the 85% range. What should guarantee the still high percentage, says the leader, is the bet on the trips of families who intend to enjoy other tourist attractions in Rio during their break.

“In the case of Carnival on the avenue, the impact is different, because it has an audience that is very focused on international tourists. Until April, it will have other events, and we may not be able to recover all the reservations that would have been made”, ponders Lopes.

In 2020, Carnival handled more than R$ 4 billion in the capital of Rio de Janeiro, with the presence of 2 million tourists, according to data from Riotur.

‘Street Carnival is more than a 13th for us’

Thiago Vicente de Moraes, 35, regrets the new cancellation of street parties in the city. He sells drinks outdoors.

“Carnival is always something more for us. It would help a lot, even more in a damned pandemic like this”, he says.

According to Moraes, before Covid-19, sales in Carnival blocks yielded the equivalent of up to two months of work.

“The impact of cancellation is very big. Street Carnival is more than a 13th salary for us. It’s money that allows us to shop and pay late bills”, says the coordinator of Muca (United Movement of Camelôs), Maria from Lourdes do Carmo, 47.

At the beginning of February, the city of Rio de Janeiro announced an aid of R$ 500 for street vendors who work in the street blocks. The municipal administration talks about benefiting more than 9,000 people, identified from a register of the 2020 Carnival.

Muca defends the increase in the number of street vendors entitled to aid, as not all of them had a record in 2020, according to the movement.

Like Rio, São Paulo also announced in January the cancellation of the street Carnival. The samba school parades are scheduled for April.

The city hall of the capital of São Paulo states that, in 2020, the street Carnival generated about R$ 2.75 billion in the city’s economy.

The second year, with the date affected by the pandemic, frustrates traders like Kaled Curi Junior, 50. He is the manager of a costume store in the central region of São Paulo. According to Junior, even with the school parades, the sale of carnival items can drop by up to 50% without the blocks.

“There is an economic impact”, says the trader, who also regrets the increase in operating costs, as part of the goods sold is influenced by the higher dollar.

Electric trios are parked in the garage in Salvador

In Salvador, the cancellation of Carnival this year deepens the crisis of the entertainment sector, which rehearsed a resumption at the end of 2021 with parties for up to 5,000 people, but had to put the foot on the brakes at the beginning of the year.

Since mid-January, the audience limit for events in Bahia has been reduced to 1,500 people, making some parties that were scheduled for the Carnival period unfeasible, including the traditional boxes. The approximately one hundred electric trios dedicated to the party are also parked in the garages.

President of the Salvador Carnival Council, businessman Flávio Emanoel highlights that the suspension of the party does not only affect the owners of blocks and cabins, but also impacts the families of musicians, lambs, street vendors and acarajé baianas.

“The situation is desperate. There are musicians selling their own instruments to put food on the table”, says the businessman.

The Carnival Council formalized the proposal to hold the party in May, in a smaller format than the traditional one, but has not yet received a response from the city of Salvador and the state government.

In the tourism sector of the capital of Bahia, the climate is more optimistic. The advance of vaccination against Covid-19 and the relaxation of health measures indicate that the cancellation in 2022 should not have as profound an impact as in 2021.

“We are experiencing the best moment of tourism in the city. We spent the year 2021 promoting the city for domestic tourism and the strategy proved to be right”, says the municipal secretary of Culture and Tourism, Fábio Mota.

He highlights that the resumption of tourism –which represents 35% of Salvador’s economic activity– will minimize the negative effects of the cancellation.

In Recife, the city government estimates a drop of R$ 10 million in the municipality’s revenue with the suspension of Carnival. The municipal administration has prepared measures to try to mitigate the negative impacts on the production chain involved with the party, including the creation of emergency aid.

When it announced the suspension of Carnival last month, the city government did not rule out that the party could be held at another time of the year, depending on the sanitary conditions of Covid-19.

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