by Michael J. Shapiro | February 12, 2016
Brazil's annual Carnaval celebration, which took place Feb. 5 - 10, 2016, drew international tourists in record numbers, according to early data from hotel associations and Brazilian state and municipal agencies. The influx occurred despite international concerns about the spread of the Zika virus, although neither the World Health Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued any advisories against travel to Brazil or other Zika-infected countries.

"Due to the appreciation of the U.S. currency and also the promotion of Brazil done by Embratur abroad for this season, we achieved an excellent result in the arrival of international visitors," said Vinicius Lummertz, president of Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Board. The success bodes well for the upcoming Olympic and ParaOlympic Games, he added, as he believes many tourists will return based on their positive Carnaval experiences.

More than one million tourists have visited Rio de Janeiro thus far in 2016, causing hotel occupancy to average 85 percent -- a year-over-year increase of more than 15 percent, according to the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association. In Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, hotels averaged a record 97 percent occupancy last week. Visitation in the Southern state of Santa Catarina was very strong as well, in large part from other South American countries. Hotel occupancy averaged 82 percent in the state, and 86 percent in the capital of Florianópolis -- the latter a full 32 percentage points higher than the same period last year.