The Allure of Rio

The huge coastal city of Rio de Janeiro is a heady mix of iconic tourist sights and sprawling favelas that mean that any business traveller needs to be extra vigilant, warns Gillian Upton.

Think of Rio and the colourful Carnival springs to mind, the world-famous annual event which envelopes the city every spring with its high-octane street parade of dancers and floats. The 38-metre-high statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city from its high mountain perch atop Corcovado, is equal second when thinking of iconic sights in this South American city.

A very different face of the city was shown to the world when in August 2016 it became the first South American country to host the Olympic Games, the biggest sporting event on the planet. All eyes were on the Maracana Stadium, one of the largest stadiums in the world. Despite financial instability during the lead-up to the Olympics, the big numbers the city accommodated, in terms of airlift, accommodation and transport infrastructure, showcased that it was a city that works.



Indeed, it’s probably why some of South America’s largest corporations are based here, many of them in media, communications, financial services and higher education, four of the city’s main economic sources. The Greater Rio de Janeiro area is Brazil’s second most important industrial area, where the major engineering, metallurgy, electronics, computing, printing and publishing companies are located. The service sector is dominated by banking and Rio’s stock exchange, Bolsa de Valores, is the second most dynamic stock market in Brazil.

It’s for this reason that Wings Travel Management has Rio as its base for the wider South American region, helping to service a multitude of Oil and Gas clients as it’s a major destination for this particular business sector. All the Oil and Gas companies are concentrated in two areas: Macae and Rio das Ostras.

As Brazil’s former capital, until 1960, Rio has always attracted investment. Until the end of the 19th century Rio was Brazil’s richest state. Now Sao Paulo has overtaken it although Rio boasts the HQs of major international oil companies – the likes of Shell and Esso – since the discovery of oil in the Campos Basin. Sugar cane production is still a sizeable part of the farming industry, so too sardine fishing but farming is largely unprofitable and it has been one reason why there has been so much rural to urban migration. Huge numbers have moved from the countryside into the city in search of jobs and sadly, the Olympic job boom did not materialise.



The hope is that tourism will add to the city’s coffers and bring more, high-paid jobs. Rio’s multiculturalism, year-round tropical climate, ecological beauty, and of course the carnival, make up for a pretty potent tourism product. Rio already attracts thousands of tourists each year.

Tourists soak up Samba Shows, trips to scale Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado Mountain to get up close to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and languish on the fabulous beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema. This Atlanticfacing area, known as the Carioca, is listed as a World Heritage Site. Outside the city, popular destinations include Buzios and Paraty.

The government is trying hard to promote Rio as a travel destination to boost the economy, backed by the country’s strategy of investing heavily in major events. The World Cup in 2014 was a coup, so too the Games in 2016, and these resulted in long overdue infrastructural improvements, to the bus system, and the renaissance of the old port town of Porto Maravilha for example.



This year Rio hosts the World Water Forum; in 2020 the Congress of the International Union of Architects. They’re not quite as big as the biggest tournament in football but it’s a start.

Behind this alluring picture of a bustling world city are huge debts of Euros5bn and abject poverty and they are real challenges for the government. Not surprisingly, the huge gap between rich and poor has exacerbated high levels of crime and it’s vital that travellers to the area are aware of this and remain alert to the risks at all times.

Despite this, Rio remains a hugely important business destination and whether travelling for work or leisure, Rio’s majestic views, vibrant city and colourful culture are hard to beat.



  • The Brazilian population is predominantly Christian (87%), the majority being Roman Catholic (64.4%)
  • Not all ATMs work
  • The city’s no-go areas are the shanty towns known as ‘favelas’
  • All the major hotel chains are represented in Rio. The five-star hotels are in Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca



  • Punctuality is expected for meetings
  • Business attire is business casual; ties are optional. Keep suits for formal events
  • Wifi is free of charge and available in most restaurants and hotels
  • 10% tip is usually built into restaurant bills
  • Portuguese is the national language but a large percentage of the population speak some English and Spanish
  • Taxis and Uber are abundant and generally reliable


If you’d like to find out more about Wings in South America, please contact your business development manager or email


Article first published in 2018 in Wings’ BLUE magazine. To subscribe click here

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