Brazil boldly expands tourism options

(eTN) - Some tourism executives assess their destination, evaluate the moutain of challenges facing them and go into deep denial.

Brazil boldly expands tourism options

(eTN) – Some tourism executives assess their destination, evaluate the moutain of challenges facing them and go into deep denial. Ask them about the problems associated with a mandate to increase tourism arrivals in the midst of a global rececssion, civil unrest, weather-related disasters, crimimals who find attacking tourists a profitable endeavor, and – ignoring the facts – develop a marketing strategy that has as much relevancy as a bikini in a snowstorm. How refreshing to meet a Tourism Director who assesses his destinations’ weaknesses and strengths, and is determined to find ways to turn threats into opportunities and weaknesses into strengths.

Global Envoy
Miguel Jeronimo, a career diplomat, started his political journey in Portugal, at the Ministry of Education, moving on to join this country’s Foreign Service. In the early 1990s Jeronimo was appointed to the Portugese Mission to the UN, securing a seat for Portugal in the UNs Security Council and the presidency of the UNs 50th session of the General Assembly. Moving from the UN to the United National Development Fund he developed fund raising projects in sub-Saharan Africa, raising over $45 million from donor countries. In 2004 he became the Director of EMBRATUR (Empresa Brasileira de Turismo), with the mission of establishing Brazil as a viable destination for tourism with a designated budget in excess of US$24 million.

Endless Beauty Undiscovered
Mention Brazil and images of Rio de Janeiro effortlessly appear; this city is the most visited destination by foreign visitors for leisure trips and takes second place for business travelers. Tourism growth started in 2000 with 2004 and 2005 among the best years ever. However, in 2006 tourism numbers declined and there was almost no growth from 2007 – 2009 thanks to the decline in value of the US dollar, and the global economic crises.

According to a 2006 study conducted by Dr. Andrew Dixon (The Fletcher School, Tufts University), Brazil, the largest country in South America, has an abundance of goodies to offer the international tourist, including the “striking natural beauty” of the Amazon, the wild-life wetlands of the Pantanal, a pristine Atlantic coastline, Iguacu Falls, volcanic beaches, the “mystique of Rio de Janeiro” and “warm hearted and friendly people…”

Dixon found that while the country is rich in opportunities for tourism exploration and development, the average tourist “has no idea” of the options available as there is a serious deficit in promotional activities at the local and national levels.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): EcoTourism
To support the growth of ecotourism in Brazil, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) provided a US$13 million pilot program (Proecotur) to support almost a dozen ecotourism projects in the Amazon. The pilot study was followed by a grant of US$200 million which was directed to building the infrastructure and private sector attractions. In 2006, another US$9 million was allocated for highway improvement and other related systems as well as to market and protect state parks. The IDB also funded the Pantanal Project, providing assistance to protect the regions fragile ecosystems that were being destroyed through cattle raising, mining, farming and logging.

The government of Brazil is also working with the Peabiru Institute to review barriers to tourism in the Amazon, including: 1) lack of information, 2) mistrust of Brazilain tour operators, and 3) inadquate human resources. Termed the Amazon Foot program, the funds provide training, independent certification, and public awareness of the region.

Barriers to Tourism Growth
Dixon identified four significant challenges obstructing tourism development: 1) corruption; 2) crime; 3) infrastructure limitations and 4) sexual tourism.

Eliminating the Sleaze Factor
Political corruption has been part of the Brazilian way of life since the founding of the nation. In 2005, Transparency International ranked the country 3.7 out of 10, in a list where 0 is highly corrupt and 10 equals no corruption. Until very recently power resided in the hands of the elite and professional government administrators who controlled the factors of production.

Over time, however, the amount of corruption has declined and Jeronimo finds that the recently elected adminstration is diligently addressing the issue, making sure that the approval process for new business development, financial assistance, and other issues directed by the government and the political process are expedited and support is based on merit and not on family connections.

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Tourists Protect Assets
Brazil records high rates of violent crime (i.e., murders, robberies and homocides), but recent developments have removed the destination from the list of “most violent places on Earth (Swiss –based NGO Small Arms Survey). Kidnappings have declined thanks to increased policing and there have been efforts to combat child prostititution and sex tourism and Jeronimo expects that tourism safety and security will increase further as the country prepares for the 2014 World Cup.

Fighting Against Child Sex Tourism
Although late to acknowledge the destructive nature of children forced into prostitution, Brazil is trying to show child predators that there is a difference between consenting adult excesses during carnival and the sexual abuse of children. Maia Blume of has determined that Brazil’s sex tourism is increasing and the children are inexpensive. Tranvestites and teens are available at US$5.00 and UNICEF estimates that 250,000 child prostitutes are currently working in Brazil.

With the World Cup dateline creeping up, some cities are reevaluating the error of their ways. Ceara, a World Cup host town is trying to encourage their regular sex tourists to find other destinations. To strengthen their position police are driving through the town with AK47s. No matter the intention, these actions are not diminishing demand – merely moving sex tourism to other locations such as Recife.

For some locales, recent studies disclosing that child predators spend less money on holiday than other tourists, have determined that their permissive attitude toward sex tourism is no longer cost effective. To clean up their act and their image some cities are providing training for children to work in the hospitality, travel and tourism industry, instead of sex tourism and the city of Forteleza is promoting actions against child sex tourism that include forums and prevention campaigns, promotional shows and seminars – trying to involve all Brazilians in stopping the sex tourism industry.

Serious About Tourism
Tourism ranks third (behind soy and iron ore) in creating a cash flow for the country’s economy. Worldwide, Brazil ranks 30 in destinations most visited by tourists and generated 2.6 billion Euros (2004). The tourism industry is one of the largest employers in the country, providing jobs for 1 in every 11 workers, and overall, it accounted for 9 million jobs (2004). The countries providing a large part of the tourists to Brazil are from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile as well as the US and Italy.

Brazilian tourism is developing primarily through the private sector, with Accor Hotel Brazil, Varig, Tam and VASP, Localiza Car Rent a Car, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Viagens CVC , dominating the marketplace. National parks are popular destinations, with Amazon National Park at the top of the list, while theme and amusement parks are the most profitable.

World Cup: 2014
In three years Brazil, the country that introduced the game, will be hosting the World Cup – the first time in 64 years. In 1950 Brazil was the first country to host the World Cup championship. They did not win that year – but came close, losing by a technicality. Finally in 1958 Brazil won against Sweden; 1962 won against Czechoslavakia; 1970 and 1994 Brazil won against Italy and in 2002 Brazil won against Germany. The 2014 games are more than likely to attract hordes of global occer fans who will be cheering for Brazil – again.

21st Century Infrastructure: High Speed Rail
A high speed rail project (Brazil TAV) is planned to connect Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Campanas – the three most important economic areas in the country. The highspeed rail is expected to be operational by 2014, just in time for the World Cup.

Currently it takes five hours to travel between Rio and Sao Paulo by bus; the high speed train will reduce the travel time to 90 minutes and includes scheduled stops at the airport and two other cities. The rail will speed between cities at 174 miles per hour and be used for both passenger and freight services. The estimated cost for construction is between US$9 – US$19 billion.

Leading Tourism Destination
Brazil’s emergence as a leading tourist destination is evidenced by the steady increase in the flow of international airline passengers, from 8.6 million in 2002 to 12.2 million in 2006. There continues to be increased lift and about 930 flights leave Brazil for 30 countries, and there are 78 countries to which flights can be introduced. Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) is expanding their bilateral conversations with many countries (especially Asia), as they expand connectivity for the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games in Rio (2016).

It looks like the world is beating a path to Brazil and it is likely to be with the Latin beat of the samba or bassa nova.

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