Who is making money from tourism in Salvador? – 03/29/2024 – Black Guide

Who is making money from tourism in Salvador?  – 03/29/2024 – Black Guide


Salvador is the most desired destination in Brazil, according to the Ministry of Tourism, the best creative destination, according to the Creative Tourism Network, and is among the most sought after destinations in 2024 on Airbnb. Tourism is, without a doubt, a driving force in the economy of the capital of Bahia, which celebrates its birthday today (29/3), and has become a favorite among travelers, but who is making money in the sector?

The city has an 83% black population, however, economic and political power is still in the hands of the white minority. This means that the majority of the hotel chain, tourism agencies, logistics companies, restaurants, souvenir shops, among others, are still owned by white businessmen who earn most of the money invested by tourists.

Salvador Capital Afro, a city hall program with financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which aims to position the city as an Afro-referenced destination, has not changed this reality. Instead of training terreiros, quilombos, Afro blocks and other cultural and political facilities to receive tourists, funds were concentrated in the same companies owned by white people that usually win public notices in the city, as we have already pointed out here.

This means that even in the city with the highest percentage of black people in Brazil, the money from those who go to meet them does not always reach black people. Branco, the Secretary of Culture and Tourism, Pedro Tourinho, shows himself to be an ally of the agenda when he questions in his speeches that “if tourism in Salvador is culture and the culture of Salvador is black, how unfair is it that black people do not benefit economically tourism and culture”.

According to Tourinho, the city hall’s proposal is to take a step beyond representation towards prosperity. “If we are unable to place Salvador in not only a representative but also an economic role, we will only be repeating an old formula of colonial exploitation of the poorest layers of society, combined with the great crime of recent centuries, which is racism. All our actions stop by saying ‘Salvador Capital Afro’ it is a tourism strategy, a cultural strategy, but also a reparation strategy”.

If the actions of public authorities still seem to have no effect on the city’s daily life, how can you, as a tourist, begin to change this reality? Guia Negro’s manifesto reminds us that tourism is a choice and that you can and should privilege businesses owned by black people, women, LGBT people and those with disabilities and that your consumption will make a difference to these local businesses and will be reciprocated with affection and unique experiences, something that the Afrotourism specializes in providing.

Salvador is considered the “black mecca”, a place that all black people must visit and, according to data from the Salvador Tourism Observatory, which carries out sample research, black tourists represented 64.8% of visitors to the capital of Bahia in 2023.

Overtourism x residents

In 2024, Carnival was held earlier, practically added to the Festa de Iemanjá, on February 2, another event that attracts thousands of tourists, making the summer shorter and more crowded. The city’s Municipal Department of Culture and Tourism estimated in December that Salvador would receive around 3.4 million people between the months of December and March this year (an increase of 16% when compared to the same period in 2022), moving almost 5 billion in the local economy.

While it appears at the top of the travel wish list, Salvador is the capital with the worst rates of poverty, violence, income and unemployment, according to data from the Map of Inequalities, which analyzed the 26 capitals of Brazilian states, released by the ICS (Instituto Sustainable Cities). This shows that money from tourism still does not reach all parts of the population.

Furthermore, the Bahian capital experienced days in which the “overtoursim” (excess of tourists) did not bring benefits, but rather discomfort for residents of neighborhoods such as Santo Antônio Além do Carmo, in the historic center. There, it was common to see crowded streets and bars, very high car prices and dirt on the streets.

There is also gentrification that has left the value of rent, food and consumption quite high, alienating those who already lived in the region before the tourism boom. The neighborhood has lost 20% of its residents in the last 10 years, according to IBGE data. The question that remains and that I return to the traveling reader is what type of tourism do we want to do: exploratory and consumer or cultural and direct exchange?

Who are you consuming in these places? Are they local residents, large chains or businesses that just occupy a space without worrying about the surroundings? Actor and director Fabrício Boliveira, who is a resident of Santo Antônio Além do Carmo, reinforces the importance of consuming from people in the neighborhood so as not to encourage “ungoverned occupation”. “It’s a respect of not distorting the neighborhood to serve tourists and not the residents, who remain there when they leave. There needs to be a more horizontal relationship”, he considers.

For those who visit, the actor’s tip is, in addition to the rest and consumption of travel, to make exchanges to contribute to the improvement of the city. In this sense, I also reinforce that in addition to the gastronomic, architectural and coastal richness, Salvador’s biggest difference is its black culture and history. Therefore, more than political discourse, the protagonists and beneficiaries of tourism need to be black people. An urgent change that would be a nice birthday present for the city.

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