Daniela Maia
Rafael Catarcione/RioTurDaniela Maia

Daniela Maia: “Here, everyone mingles, no matter their name or background”

Daniela Maia, the Secretary of Tourism, opens up about the highs and lows of working in one of the world's most famous cities, shattering stereotypes and showcasing a Rio that extends far beyond the Zona Sul.

Renata Magalhães

“IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE RIO to someone who’s never been here, I’d call it the Cidade Maravilhosa. You’ll find a mix of natural beauty, culture, history, charm, joy, freedom, and fun here. Our unique vibe sets us apart from anywhere else, even within Brazil. Everyone loves the carioca style: the sway, the fashion, the flip-flops, heading to the bar straight from the beach in your bikini or shorts. Here, everyone mingles, no matter their name or background.”

“IN MOST CITIES, the wealthier classes live in the hills. In Zona Sul, it’s the favelas on the mountainsides. There’s no isolated outskirts, no divide between the rich and the poor. This mix creates our funk, football, and samba. These interactions are what give us our swing. That’s why we’re a city without prejudice.”

“OUR BIGGEST ASSET IS FREEDOM. We attract all kinds of people. We’re known for being welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community, who feel truly free here. Cariocas are incredibly hospitable. Any tourist, local or international, will tell you that. It’s something we see in ourselves through others’ eyes. We’ve got that special ‘borogodó’ – and we’re proud of it.”

“IT’S A HUGE RESPONSIBILITY to lead tourism in such a special city. It’s a pleasure and a challenge. Rio is naturally wonderful, but also distant. We get many visitors from South America, but we want to attract more from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. It’s a competitive market requiring big investments.”

“I KEPT MADONNA’S VISIT A SECRET for three years. The impact was huge. Her historic Copacabana show put us back on the global map, reviving the image we want to present. It was spectacular. We’re a grand stage for entertainment and major events like Rock in Rio, Websummit, and Rio Innovation Week. Plus, our food scene is thriving, with young talent starting to make international waves. Our tourism potential goes beyond natural wonders.”

“THE VIOLENCE STATISTICS don’t match outsiders’ perceptions. We rank 20th in violence among Brazil’s capitals. But if there’s an incident in another state, it stays there; if it’s in Rio, the whole world knows. It’s the price of fame. A recent survey showed how tourists’ opinions change after spending time here. Brazil loves Rio but often reinforces outdated stigmas. We’re working to change that image, even among locals.”

“MY HIDEAWAY is São Conrado Beach. I walk on the sand in the morning, with my feet in the water, gazing at Pedra da Gávea and the forest. It’s inspiring. I start my day with a different energy. Rio offers that – finding energy in nature, even with a tough routine. But I also love our bars. Our bar and boteco tradition is unique. I’m lucky to work in tourism, so I ‘have to’ be in the best spots around the city.”

“EVERY TIME I VISIT CHRIST THE REDEEMER, I’m moved. I’ve been at different times, with sun and clouds, and it’s always special. I even spent New Year’s Eve there once. It might be cliché, but everyone who comes to Rio should experience it. It’s an indescribable connection with the city.”

“THE LAST TIME I WAS DEEPLY MOVED was during the off-season Carnival in 2022 when we finally upgraded the lighting at Sapucaí. It was an old project no one managed to complete. Many told me to give up, but I persisted. Knowing this achievement would be permanent, during Carnival, felt exhilarating. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.”

“THERE’S A WORLD BEYOND ZONA SUL and the city center, where tourists usually stay. Exploring Rio, I’ve discovered some amazing food spots. Frango Chic in Padre Miguel is a campaign hotspot for politicians because the dishes are fantastic. In Vicente de Carvalho, Adega D’ouro serves unforgettable bacalhau. In Campo Grande, I had the best meat at O Brazeiro. And I often visit Enchendo Linguiça in Grajaú and Rico Point, a paradise kiosk in Recreio. Living in Rio is just wonderful.”

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