Recife Carnival – Big Business

Carnivals in Brazil are not only about the fun, they are also huge business in terms of turnover and visibility, and Pernambucois is no exception to the rule, writes Lucas Lacombe and Ricardo Demarchi from MEI Brazil based in Recife.

Recife and its neighbouring city Olinda jointly have the most famous street parties. People from all ages and backgrounds dress-up and enjoy frevo, maracatu drums, giant dolls and costumes parades, music shows and public gatherings (known as blocos–themed-groups usually with a humorous tone). The spirit invades everyone creating a great atmosphere and this may be the reason why the Pernambucanos even dare to sing out loud that they have “the best Carnival of Brazil!” or even that “Carnival is the biggest show on Earth”.

Yet, after five days of ‘folia’ (people partying together), business goes back as usual. And what a good business it has been for Recife this year! Proud of the work put up by his team, the city’s mayor Geraldo Júlio, who came into office in January, said in a press conference that the 2013 edition was the biggest Carnival that Recife has ever had.

The figures support his statement and show that the investment was worth it. According to the City Council, R$30m (£10m) was spent through public and private funds on the five day event which itself injected a stunning record of R$603m (£200m) into the local economy. This year’s 200% return on investment beats the R$595m (£197m) of 2012.

Tourism Boosts Economy

During the period, the city welcomed 718,000 visitors, compared with 710,000 last year. Out of this total, 620,000 people per day circulated by the city centre where the main shows were taking place, and another nearly 38,000/day in decentralised areas. Each tourist spent on average £161/day (£3 more than in 2012) while the daily visitor (with no accommodation) spent £59. Hotels reached 95% occupancy (an increase of 7%) with tourists staying on average of 7-9 days. Around 8% among the 66,000 people who disembarked at Recife International airport came from abroad.

It is a Mega Event

In total, 18 main stages and another 34 smaller podiums across Greater Recife hosted 1,500 shows and parades, 90% of which featured local artists. The main evening concerts took place at Marco Zero (see picture) with some of the best national singers such as Caetano Veloso, Alcione, Titãs and Lenine taking part.

Galo da Madrugada, one of Recife’s main attractions saw an estimated 2m people rambling in the street dancing to the rhythm of huge sound trucks parading along a 4.5 km route. The 49th edition of the Municipal Ball, another tradition pre-Carnival gathered 12,200 people and brought in R$718,000 (£238,000), all of which was to be donated to charity.

The Record Breaking Carnival

In order to deliver the most organised, safest and cleanest Carnival, between 5,000 to 6,000 staff were involved. Additionally 1,200 accredited journalists from all over the country and abroad covered the event.

Despite obvious inconveniences, such as traffic as the city centre was isolated, the local ‘foliões’ suffered less than previous years thanks to new free parking spaces and a fleet of 8,100 taxis (600 more than last year). In total over 57,500 people took the Carnival Express bus service to get to the city centre.

Public Authorities were stricter on safety regulations. They made nearly 10,000 inspections to formal and informal businesses – e.g. stands, bars, VIP lounges, itinerant sellers, musical trucks.

On the ground, the constant presence of thousands of military and local police paid off: no fatality was registered in the mains areas. In other areas, homicides decreased by 15.9 % with 53 deaths, against 63 in 2012.

Over 1,900 cleaners (700 more than 2012) swiped the streets of Recife collecting a total of 425 tonnes of solid and 6.2 tonnes of recycling waste. Community projects, led by the local government, were used to teach kids and adult about sustainability.

A Brazilian Business

Organisers of other iconic Carnivals, such as Salvador and Rio, are also smiling. According to official figures, the capital of Bahia predicted a turnover of R$1bn (£335m) into the local economy with only R$85m (£28m) investment. Meanwhile, the ‘Cidademaravillosa’ attracted 900,000 visitors (70% of them foreigners) generating R$1.3bn (£435m) into the local economy.

Business Opportunities

It is undeniable that Brazilians really know how to mix business with pleasure. The yearly Carnival in Recife – as well as other cities – is most certainly proof that Brazil is capable of organising mega events. Yet, it also shows that many business opportunities are still up for grab for foreign companies that have specific know-how. But they would need to hurry up. Recife City Council has already announced that it will start planning the 2014 Carnival soon…

For further information, please contact Lucas Lacombe ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or Ricardo Demarchi ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), or +55 81 3037 4488.

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