UVA alum brings business opportunities and cultural immersion to Brazil’s favelas

UVA McIntire School of Commerce graduate Elliot Rosenberg is the founder of Favela Experience, a homestay business that connects travelers with inexpensive accommodations in the slums of Brazil. UVA McIntire School of Commerce graduate Elliot Rosenberg is the founder of Favela Experience, a homestay business that connects travelers with inexpensive accommodations in the slums of Brazil.

University of Virginia graduate Elliot Rosenberg has been lucky enough to attend two soccer matches in Brazil since the 2014 FIFA World Cup began. But while soccer fans from every corner of the globe fill hotels and hostels across a dozen cities, Rosenberg is working around the clock on an ambitious entrepreneurial endeavor, pairing visitors with hosts in areas like Rocinha, the largest slum in the country.

Rosenberg graduated from UVA with a degree from the McIntire School of Commerce and another in Latin American studies last spring. A Beverly Hills native, he expected he’d take the same route as most of his family members and peers: graduate from business school, work a six-figure job for a couple decades, and donate a chunk of his earnings to charities in retirement to satisfy his desire to help others. But the year he spent working with at-risk youth in Chile and a summer internship in Brazil instilled in him a desire to have a more direct, concrete impact on the less fortunate.

His big idea? Favela Experience, a homestay business that brings an influx of income to some of Brazil’s poorest, most marginalized people by connecting travelers with residents in favelas, the densely populated urban Brazilian slums. The hosts bring in some much-needed extra cash, and the guests get homey, more intimate accommodations for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

“There’s a misconception that favelas are dangerous for foreigners, and that people here are just extremely indigent and can’t provide for themselves,” said Rosenberg, who lives in Rocinha, a hillside favela with an estimated population of about 150,000. “But people here are very welcoming and respectful of foreigners. I feel safer here than I do outside in other areas of the city.”

Hotels in Rio run upwards of $500 for a single room during the World Cup. Favela Experience prices are around $25-60 per person, and Rosenberg said about 75 percent of that money goes directly to the hosts. A small staff conduct regular home visits to ensure the properties meet basic western accommodation standards: a bed, a working bathroom, and wi-fi. But aside from that, Rosenberg said what’s most important is a genuine desire on the part of the hosts to share their own culture and learn about their guests.

Fellow UVA grad Caelan Urquhart, whose Portuguese is limited to basics like “hello,” “thank you,” and “soccer,” spent two weeks in Rocinha during the World cup. The woman he stayed with speaks minimal English, but they still managed to understand each other.

“Mostly we communicate through laughter,” Urquhart said. “It’s obviously very different from what I’m used to, but we’ve been just laughing about it when I mess up words, joking around.”

It’s been a year and a half since Rosenberg launched Favela Experience from his college dorm room, and the business has brought visitors from dozens of countries to the slums that changed the way he views travel and culture.  

“The concept of more meaningful, immersive travel that is more beneficial for particularly low income communities is a vision that I want to support and spread to other places,” Rosenberg said.

Posted In:     News

Tags:     ,

Previous Post

From cancer center to courtroom

Next Post

Got students? Why The Flats at West Village is the canary in the coal mine for Charlottesville’s midtown



Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of