Twin cities? Students survey New Yorkers’ perceptions of Rio, report to tourist board

image-2By Tom Stoelker

Last month, students from Westchester’s Executive MBA program presented findings from a survey of New Yorker’s perceptions of Rio de Janeiro to the Rio Visitors’s Convention Bureau in Brazil.

The consultation was the capstone project of a summer session led by Professor John Hollwitz, Ph.D. The consult focused on how Rio could increase visitors through tourism and business development. Students presented their findings and a strategic plan on August 20 to professionals from the Visitors and Convention Center system, which included representatives from Rio and several other Brazilian cities.

The legwork for the project was done in New York as preparations for the World Cup were well underway. Students found that while New Yorkers are open to traveling to new places and learning about different cultures, there is substantial reticence of going to Rio due to personal safety concerns.

However, EMBA student Joseph Pirraglia said of 150 New Yorkers the group surveyed, most of those who’d already travelled to Rio would recommend visiting the city and would also like to return for another visit.

In a telephone interview from the conference, Pirraglia said that as a first time visitor to Brazil, he too would like to return. He added that he found Rio’s personal safety issues similar to those in New York.

“You have to watch yourself when you walk around New York at night and that’s pretty much the same in Rio,” he said.

Pirraglia said the group advised the Visitors Bureau that they should attempt to draw parallels between two cities whenever possible and to promote the aspects of the city that New Yorkers might not be aware of.

“Like New York, the community in Rio is more open to people of different nationalities and sexual orientation,” he said.

He said that Rio’s open-minded atmosphere creates niche business opportunities that city should take advantage of, like marketing to the gay and lesbian community.

The study more or less confirmed the findings of previous research.

“The overall impressions I got from many people, including the hotel managers, is that although we were telling them some things they already knew, it was helpful to hear it from a New York perspective,” said EMBA student Kirsten Hase.

Others were impressed that students who had never been to Rio provided such spot-on analysis.

“For a consulting group who is foreign to Brazil, the research and recommendations presented by Fordham were of professional quality and demonstrated a thorough analysis of the situation we are facing,” said Milton Longobardi, chairman of the Latin American Advisory Board for the Chief Marketing Officers Council.

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