Santa Catarina: one of Brazil’s and the world’s best-kept tourism secrets


After hosting one of the most successful Global Travel & Tourism Summits ever, breaking records in both participation (1,448 delegates) and media coverage (close to 1,700 articles, broadcasts, etc.), the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina can look forward to a great future in terms of sustainable tourism development.

This is one of the main conclusions of a study conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), and which was launched at the end of October in Santa Catarina’s state capital, Florianópolis. The study marks the first time that WTTC, in cooperation with its research partner Oxford Economics, has quantified the economic contribution of travel and tourism to an individual state in Latin America. It was carried out to commemorate the 9th Global Travel & Tourism Summit, held in May 2009 in Florianópolis, as a gift to the hosts of the Summit: the Santa Catarina State Government, EMBRATUR – the Brazilian Tourist Board, and the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism.

“The importance of travel and tourism to Santa Catarina’s economy is indisputable,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC president & CEO, on announcing the results of the study, “Yet much of the potential of this southern state of Brazil remains largely untapped. Indeed, Santa Catarina must be one of the region’s best-kept tourism secrets since few outside Latin America, or perhaps even Brazil, are aware of its unparalleled diversity in terms of its landscapes, cultures, and people – the land of a thousand faces.”

According to the study, travel and tourism in Santa Catarina contributes an estimated 12.5 percent of the state’s GDP, or R$14.8 billion (US$6.4 billion) and nearly 510,000 jobs (11.9 percent of total employment) across the wider travel and tourism economy. Moreover, between now and 2019, its contribution is forecast to become even more significant. It should grow by 4.5 percent a year, in terms of GDP, and by 3.2 percent in number of jobs, to R$33.8 billion (US$12.8 billion) in travel and tourism economy GDP and a workforce of 696,000.

“However, despite these positive forecasts, there is no room for complacency,” warned Baumgarten. “We recognize all the steps taken and the progress made by the Santa Catarina state government, but international competition is fierce, and a concerted effort will be required by all key stakeholders for these forecasts to be achieved.”

Among Santa Catarina’s key travel and tourism strengths, Baumgarten noted that:

– it is one of Brazil’s most economically advanced states;
– its economy is very diversified, industrially and agriculturally;
– it has a rich ethnic diversity;
– it boasts high social indices and a low level of crime; and
– it is blessed with a wealth of natural attractions.

Nevertheless, WTTC identified a number of weaknesses, or issues, that need to be addressed by the state government to ensure that Santa Catarina fulfills its tourism promise.

– Poor air access – this is the single biggest challenge for Santa Catarina in growing its travel and tourism, especially with regard to attracting long-haul markets.

– Need for diversification to expand and enhance the state’s tourism appeal – in a move away from its focus on highly seasonal, low-yield sun and beach tourism.

– Quality improvement – especially in terms of hotel and resort development.

– Sustainability – the need to ensure a healthy balance between business imperatives, the protection and preservation of natural resources, and the well-being of Catarinenses.

– Intelligent taxation – the need to reduce the number and complexity of taxes.

– Simplification of property laws and the creation of a “one-stop shop” to attract and facilitate access to potential investors.

– Need for a clear brand image that reflects the rich diversity of Santa Catarina’s attractions.

– Development of a strong Internet presence to promote the brand and reach the increasingly independent customer of the future.

Finally, and most importantly, WTTC stressed the importance of public-private sector partnership in marketing and managing the state’s tourism. “We hope that by raising awareness of the enormous potential of travel and tourism in Santa Catarina,” Baumgarten said, “this report will act as a catalyst, encouraging industry and government to work together even more than they are doing today, in order to assure the necessary conditions for this potential to be realized.”

The Santa Catarina travel and tourism report is available for complimentary download on the WTTC website. The report can be downloaded in English and in Portuguese.

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