Friday, 17 March 2017

From aboard Ponant Le Soleal: A Sense of Salvador

It's Brazil's largest port by size and one of the world's most favourable harbours with an enclosed body of water, at more than 1000sqkm, larger than the whole of Hong Kong. At an average of 42m, it's deep and the long passenger wharf has seen three or more famous cruise ships tied up at once. A big, shiny new three storey cruise terminal welcomes guests and even has free WiFi. But hard times seems to have fallen on UNESCO World Heritage-listed Salvador da Bahia's tourism industry.

"I used to get dozens of jobs a year," laments my guide, "but now it's just a few."

Our coach drives us through downtown and on to the seaside areas of this beautifully located city of three million inhabitants. Carnivale in Salvador is in the old style and winds through the streets, taking seven hours to run the course.

Our coach leaves us in the historic centre where ornate churches, spotlessly clean squares with statues and cobblestones and a variety of architecture dictate the scene. Locals set up food and souvenir stalls and the women carry themselves proudly, many wearing traditional colonial costumes. Tourist police gather on every corner, overseeing the welfare of the visitors who must number in countless ... dozens.

So what could possibly be holding Salvador back from tourism prosperity with what seems like a God-given set of tools for a bustling tourist industry? I'm still scratching my head.