Brazilian pilgrims cheer as Pope Benedict XVI announces that the next World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pilgrims shocked at cost for WYD Rio 2013

  • March 22, 2012

Amanda Foster, 21, wants to go to World Youth Day Rio in 2013. But after hearing the cost estimates for the trip, she’s reconsidering.  

“I can’t believe the prices are so high,” said Foster, who was a part of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) trip to Madrid last August, organized through Tour Design.  

Alan Law, Tour Design spokesperson, estimates a basic 14-day World Youth Day package to Rio will cost about $4,000 with hotel accommodations. In comparison, last year’s 17-day Madrid trip cost Toronto pilgrims $3850 but the tour also included a trip to Rome filled with excursions.

In addition to the higher costs for pilgrims, the accessibility of Rio to Canadian pilgrims may be affected by the possibility that the OCY may not be going to Rio in 2013, said OCY director Fr. Frank Portelli.

“We’re leaning more towards the no side,” he said. “We’re encouraging parishes to organize their own. We haven’t fully understood what happened in Madrid or fully digested everything and now there’s one two years later,” he said.

There’s also less time to raise money, said Portelli.

And that’s kind of the consensus amongst most of the groups. said Law. To date, there is one committed parish going with Tour Design in Toronto: Holy Cross, he added.

But the higher prices are not specific to World Youth Day, said Law.

“From the coaches to the hotels, everything is expensive because they are one of the top tourist destinations in the world...We’ve gone down there a couple times to try to explain to them we need better rates because this is not going to work for our youth.”

Rio de Janeiro was ranked fifth best travel destination in the world, according to TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel web site.

“We see that the response this year is a lot slower than in the past,” said Law. “People have a lot more to think about and . . . people are recommending an older age group go.”

But although higher prices might make WYD Rio a bit more inaccessible for Canadian youth, the location will be accessible for many young people who couldn’t get to other ones, said Portelli.

“This is the reality for most of the population in the world,” he said. “I think the Catholic population, the majority of people are in the southern hemisphere and so very few of them, except the ones that have money, could get to the international World Youth Days overseas somewhere.”

Portelli said he likely will be sitting down with Cardinal Thomas Collins in the next month or two to decide whether or not the Office of Catholic Youth will be organizing a trip to the next World Youth Day.

For Megan Freitas, 24, who travelled with the OCY group to Madrid, the cost won’t stop her from going.

“If you’re a young professional, it’s not as big a deal if you really want to go,” said Freitas, although she concedes the issue isn’t as simple for a high school or university student.

But Freitas is currently struggling to find a group she can go to Rio with, since she doesn’t think her parish has plans to organize a World Youth Day group.

“I know the Salesian Sisters are taking people,” she said. “But that’s the only group I know of in Toronto.”

If the OCY doesn’t organize a trip to Rio, “that eliminates a really big option,” she said.

As for Foster, if the OCY chooses not to send a group to World Youth Day, her decision to attend would be affected as she would want to travel with a group of people she knows.

Instead, Foster and some of her fellow pilgrims from the OCY Madrid trip have been talking about returning to Spain and visiting the families they stayed with in Cintruenigo for Days in the Diocese.

“I’m sure that would be cheaper than going to Brazil.”

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