An international sporting event provides an incredible business opportunity. According to a UKTI report, just under 700,000 overseas visitors entered the UK capital during the events four years ago, with a boost to the UK economy calculated at around £9.9bn.

With so many people heading to Rio later this week, travel managers have been preparing travelers for potential disruption. While high-profile global events present business opportunities for some organisations, they also bring an array of risks. In the case of Brazil, there are varying levels of risk in relation to street crime, violence and illness. And only two weeks before the opening ceremony, the Brazilian Justice Ministry announced that a planned terrorist plot by ISIS-inspired fundamentalists had been foiled – the first of its kind in Latin America.

International sporting events should not deter businesses from sending employees to Rio in August. However, according to research carried out by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), many travel managers are advising employees to avoid the country for the duration of the event unless their travel is necessary or linked to the event. In any case, it is imperative that businesses are aware of the threats travelers may face in Brazil, and fulfill their duty of care obligations before sending any employees abroad.

Risks – street crime

Street crime is prevalent in many Brazilian cities. The risk can be particularly acute in parts of Rio; many of the city’s favelas (slums) are interspersed among tourist areas and event venues, so travelers could be exposed to petty theft, assault and armed robbery.

The Zona Norte (North Zone) of the city has a higher concentration of favelas, and therefore experiences more violent crime. However, the Zona Sul (South Zone), where tourist attractions such as Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are located, is home to arrastões – groups of thieves working together to pickpocket and mug tourists. This activity is more pronounced during the night and on weekends, and especially at the beach.

Educating travelers on choosing the correct accommodation is one of the most important aspects of security. Hotels in the South Zone, in particular large international chains, will have security measures in place to combat robbery and violent crime. Travelers should choose to stay in established hotels with adequate security and fire safety measures.

Risks – political instability

The Petrobras crisis has already seen several high-ranking political figures impeached in the last several months, and the political environment remains tense. Political protests and strikes are commonplace in Brazil and are likely to intensify during the run up to the events. Anti-government groups such as Movimento Brasil Livre and Vem Pra Rua could call for demonstrations that could interrupt travel plans and potentially endanger travelers.

As polarization between anti and pro-governmental groups intensifies, demonstrations could turn violent. Police have used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.

Having clear knowledge of a traveler’s schedule and location throughout the trip is an key element of company’s duty of care responsibilities. Protests can rise up quickly and unpredictably, so utilization of traveler tracking technologies should play a role in ensuring your employees aren’t caught up in any moments of civil unrest.

Tightened security

Brazil’s government is launching an integrated security plan for the length of the events to deter urban violence and street crime, enlisting some 85,000 public and private security professionals in the process. Utilization of security perimeters, no-fly zones, drone- usage and mobile signal blocking technology has been authorized to offer an extra level of protection to visitors to the events themselves, and crisis response plans are in place in the event of a threat or attack. However, despite the added levels of security, travelers need to be made aware of the risks of street crime and civil unrest, and properly briefed before they make their journey.

Final thoughts

The situation in Brazil, both politically and economically, has deteriorated since it was awarded the events in 2009. But by educating travelers about the risks, and working closely with the TMC, travelers should have a safe and productive trip to Brazil.

For a more detailed breakdown of the risks involved in a trip to Brazil this summer, you can view iJET’s recent threat assessment report.

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