Rio de Janeiro is eyeing a new way to bring World Cup tourists to the city from the airport: hovercraft.

Rio state’s Tourism Secretary Claudio Magnavita met with Transport Secretary Tatiana Vaz Carius on April 13 and discussed the idea, Magnavita said in a phone interview. The state would like at least two such boats that fit around 80 people each and could make about four trips an hour, he said.

Most visitors to Brazil’s largest tourism destination will land at the Galeao airport on Governor’s Island in Guanabara Bay. They will putt along an often-clogged highway to the city center for as long as an hour, with the Southern Zone’s beaches like Ipanema even farther off. The city government last month decreed three holidays to reduce traffic flow on match days.

“There’s a silting problem in Guanabara Bay where the island is, so it would have to be a boat with an air cushion,” Magnavita said. “If there’s a capable operator that is able to attend to safety, we will be operating for 30 days in that stretch.”

Rio will host seven games throughout the World Cup, including the final game, at Maracana stadium near the center. The boats would arrive at Praca XV in the center.

While this pilot project would only move tourists for the World Cup, boats could become a fixture following the monthlong tournament and boost transport options for tourists during the 2016 summer Olympics, he said. In that case, the government would hold a tender for the route’s concession.

The transport secretariat’s urban transport plan, which will be published in June, proposes 12 new water transport lines, including one between the airport and the city center, according to the secretariat’s press office. The rise of the bay’s floor resulting from sediment deposition and pollution are the biggest hurdles to the route’s viability, Magnavita said.

Galeao handled 17.5 million passengers in 2013, and the consortium that last year won rights to operate it for 25 years intends to increase that to 60 million passengers.

With assistance from Juan Pablo Spinetto in Rio de Janeiro. To contact the reporter on this story: David Biller in Rio de Janeiro at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at 

Photo Credit: A passenger hovercraft in Portsmouth, England. Nick Hubbard / Flickr