Rio de Janeiro has a devastating crime problem, but the incoming mayor of the Cidade maravilhosa doesn’t want that to dissuade much-needed tourists from visiting. So, to shed its “negative image,” he said he wants to tax tourists and use the money to pay them back if they are robbed.
“Rio de Janeiro cannot continue treating its tourists as if they were an afterthought,” Rio’s mayor-elect Marcelo Crivella said at a luncheon with business leaders this week, the New York Times reported (paywall). The funds could come from a tax on airplane tickets sold to foreigners visiting the city, Crivella said.
A tax on airline tickets is nothing extreme—many travelers pay fees that supposedly go toward airport operations around the world, often without even realizing it. But the purpose of this crime tax on tourists would only draw their attention the problem. Imagine a “terrorism tax” levied on tourists in Paris, Istanbul, or Brussels, cities aching for tourists, in the wake of the attacks there.
The last thing the Rio tourism board wants is for tourists to fret about being mugged instead of the city’s Carnival celebrations or some of Rio’s storied beaches. And Rio’s crime problem doesn’t extend only to tourists. The measure would likely cause more ire among locals who aren’t getting the same treatment.
Then there is the execution problem. How would the money be distributed? Would it be the tourist’s word against local authorities’? Would reimbursement occur only after a conviction? Surely Rio has now learned that at least some robbery reports are Olympic-sized fabrications.