The World Travel & Tourism Council’s ninth Global Summit on Travel and Tourism, held last month in Florianopolis (in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil), was a success not only in terms of the number of delegates that attended and the key topics that were discussed, but it also signaled the Brazilian government’s commitment to developing its tourism industry. And who could better deliver this message than the country’s very own president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva?
“Every time I have to speak in such a great conference, in which we have to talk about the beauty and the greatness of our country in order to convince other people to believe in Brazil the way I do, I feel quite comfortable, because I have to say nothing but the truth,” President da Silva said.
According to him, WTTC’s summit is the first of a series of events we intend to celebrate during the next eight years. “It is the first of many goals we intend to achieve for Brazil and Latin America. This event gathers in our continent for the very first time. In five years, the FIFA World Cup.”
The Brazilian president also shared an important goal: to host the 2016 Olympic Games. “We are working hard to convince the international community that bringing the Olympic Games to our country is to recognize that Brazil is [on] the right road to becom[ing] an even greater nation,” he said.
President da Silva intends “to help the tourism industry, because we understand it is an extraordinary industry for cultural development and economic development.”
In making the case of his country’s tourism industry, the Brazilian president said his government is mindful of the fact that there exists different markets to appease. “Obviously, every country dreams of rich tourists, those who spend thousands of dollars. But we must recognize that most of human beings are not rich enough to afford luxurious holidays. And even the European tourist has the conscience to spend only what he is actually able to spend,” he said. “Based on that assumption, we have to develop a combination.” And by developing a “combination,” President da Silva said, “We must know that ignorance is not an attractive aspect of a destination.”
To show his government’s commitment to tourism, President da Silva has said his administration has set aside an investment package for its tourism industry. “Our government is doing [this] in Brazil, not because of the flu or because of the crisis, because before the crisis, we decided to invest US$304 billions in infrastructure. And within infrastructure will be provided 4.700 km of railroads – benefits in all Brazilian airports, roads, railroads; that we do things that need to be done, but, especially, that we improve the Brazilian quality of life.”
However, the Brazilian president is also cognizant of the fact that his government alone cannot propel Brazil’s tourism industry to its best without the help from investors. He said: “We do know that more needs to be done. When I invite you to invest in Brazil, what is our ability to create conditions that you already acquired in other countries? It is not through giving out massive incentives. There are people who think that in order to convince an entrepreneur to invest in Brazil we have to give up free land and other incentives. In reality, what we have to provide is the certainty that we will be prepared to receive tourists with excellent customer service.”
According to President da Silva, Brazil was the last country to fall to the crisis. “The only reason that we did is the lack of trust exhorted by the economic system that squashed credit availability. Immediately, we continued with all the investments that were already in place. And, we increased investment in social policy so that we can emerge out of this crisis far better off than when we fell in it. I have told chiefs of state all over the world that this crisis is not to be cried or lamented over, rather, it is a crisis that stimulates countries to invest in themselves and to do so heavily, so that we can leave it in much better conditions.”
In discussing the economy and various other societal elements such as taxes and industries, the Brazilian president raised some valid questions concerning the role of the government in spurring tourism. “How do we expect Brazilian tourism to work if we don’t have, for example, more competitive prices from the airline sector? How do we expect that a Brazilian gets to know South America if we have few flights to South America? Or how do we expect South American travels to Brazil if the flights from South America to here are few?”
To address these questions, President da Silva said his administration is in talks with various governors in Brazil regarding the “creation of a regionalization policy of the Brazilian aviation.” He said: “If big companies want to make money doing flights from capital to capital, or from Sao Paulo to Paris, it is their right. But Brazil needs to secure flights from an average city to another average city, so that people can have freedom of mobility. And I will say it – our aviation system has been infinitely better than what it is today.”
According to him, the decision to revitalize regional aviation has also been made. “We want to re-establish flights between countries of South America and re-establish the possibility of traveling to African countries – things that we do not have, that we may not have been careful about, and that now we want to make it a very important goal for our administration. That way we can occupy the geographical gap within the continent and ease the access of people among our countries.”
He added: “It is important that Brazil knows the tourist attractions of Peru, natural beauties of Bolivia, because a lot of times we only know the misery and bad things that happen in those countries. And we know that there are lots of good things there. But how will a Brazilian go to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, if there is no transportation means to get him there? We need to get the presidents of South America to assume the responsibility to create conditions that facilitate travel, perhaps through subsidizing aviation. What is important is that people know that they [have] the right to come and go.”
To investors, he had one very clear message. “What can I offer you to make you come here? What could I offer beyond the things you already know? Obviously, the best thing I may provide is a country with a reasonable buying power that we can combine growth inside and outside.”
In closing, President da Silva said: “Brazil is showing the world its ability to regulate its own financial system better than any other country in the world. And that is why we are convinced that we will exit this crisis far better than when we came into it.”