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Some World Cup Fans Will Really Be Slumming

Entrepreneurs in hotel-short Rio offer rentals in crime-ridden favelas
Some World Cup Fans Will Really Be Slumming
Photograph by Yasayoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

For Dembore Silva, this year’s World Cup in Brazil means a new motorcycle. That’s what the 26-year-old plans to buy with the proceeds from renting out his studio apartment in Brazil’s biggest slum for the month-long soccer tournament, which ends on July 13. He expects to collect 4,000 reais ($1,784) from guests willing to sample life on the wild side of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (slum neighborhoods), where federal troops in March were sent to help local police after at least five officers were killed this year and drug gangs and organized crime torched police buildings. “I’m going to be out of my apartment during the World Cup, but my pocket’s going to be so happy,” says Silva, who makes a living guiding tourists around Rio’s slums.

About half of the 600,000 foreign visitors expected for the World Cup will visit Rio, where many matches including the final will be played. They’ll compete for 55,400 hotel beds, with much of the remaining demand being met by people renting out their homes. That’s a potential gold mine for would-be entrepreneurs, who have listed scores of slum properties for rent on websites including Airbnb and Favela Experience, set up by Elliot Rosenberg, a 24-year-old from the U.S. with a degree in commerce and Latin American studies from the University of Virginia.