USING SERVICE LEARNING TO ASSESS TOURISM DESTINATION IMAGE: A FOCUS ON RIO DE JANEIRO
Free (open access)
129 - 140
CLAUDIA G. GREEN
This research profiles public perception of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro after hosting the 2014 World Cup and before the 2016 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee’s mission is that the Olympics be truly sustainable – socially, environmentally and economically. Rio was challenged to reduce crime in the favelas, improve waste management, expand and improve infrastructure, and build Olympic venues that would have a legacy for the community. The outcome was the construction of over 32 Olympic venues, 70 new hotels, and a transportation network with new roads, an enhanced rail network and modernized international airport. Thousands of jobs were provided including employment for people from the favelas. Media specialists converged upon Rio to give global coverage of the Olympic Games. Potential US based tourists were interviewed about their knowledge and perceptions of Rio de Janeiro as a tourism destination and, specifically, of the favelas. A random sample of 250 people were interviewed in 2014 after the 2014 World Cup and before the 2016 Olympics. Teams of university students enrolled in a tourism management course conducted the interviews as their service learning class assignment. Through this hands-on assignment, students: 1) gained personal insight into the social issues existing in the favelas; 2) applied their communication and critical thinking skills in interviewing people; and 3) developed an understanding of social issues as they relate to sustainable tourism development. This project was a collaboration between a US university and a Brazilian nonprofit organization that has the mission of improving the quality of life for Rio de Janeiro residents through empowering informal and formal communities. The survey instrument consisted of 28 quantitative and qualitative questions. Regardless of the media coverage, public perception was not significantly altered. This research highlights the challenges in changing potential tourists’ perceptions of selected tourism destinations and the opportunity for student service learning projects.
Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, sustainable, favelas, perception, service learning