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Rio's Moment Nears Without Top New Hotels

RIO DE JANEIRO ( TheStreet) -- The endless parties and fireworks of New Year's Eve in Rio de Janeiro were to mark the beginning of a 'Golden Decade' for Brazil's second-largest city, which will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Contrary to the media coverage of endless urban violence, Rio is benefiting from a booming economy and stronger police control of its more than 100 favelas, impoverished neighborhoods notorious for their drug lords and rampant gang violence. Along the streets of Leblon and Ipanema, two of the city's chicest neighborhoods, an improved economy is seen in the city workers sweeping sidewalks and maintaining one of the cleanest cities you'll see in South America -- or anywhere.

But while most of Rio seems to be sizzling, its hospitality industry seems to be on more of a simmer, with few hotel projects on the horizon even with so much going in its favor.

Ipanema Beach in Rio, Brazil's second-largest city.

Rio de Janeiro's hotel landscape continues to be dominated by behemoth high-rise relics that are decades old, or by lackluster American and European chains that don't always live up to their luxury moniker. Perhaps the most famous of Rio's hotels, Copacabana Palace, is owned and operated by Orient Express, which maintains an impeccable luxury property at the edge of Copacabana Beach that's been the city's most prestigious address for almost a century.

Opened in 1923 and inspired by the hotel palaces of the Cote d'Azur, an opulent resort of sprawling swimming pool, outpost of Cipriani Restaurant and hot new nightclub called Bar du Copa make it one of the fancier destinations for Rio visitors. The hotel is also host to an array of be-seen VIP events, such as an annual New Year's Eve fete and Grand Carnaval Ball where guests dress in couture costumes and black tie. This year's Carnaval event will feature a "Leopard" theme for its March 5 masquerade event, for which tickets will cost upward of $750.

On the downside, the Copacabana location of Rio's poshest address has evolved into one of the city's more touristy neighborhoods. Visitors to the hotel tend to stay close to the property, preferring to frequent the in-house beach club, where security hovers over your belongings as you take a dip.
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