A growing number of tourists is visiting Brazil by ship. Brazilians are still the majority, but the national maritime cruise market, which grows on average 40% a year and employs 45,000 people, has attracted more attention from foreigners.
The offer of berths for the 2009/2010 season, which ends in May, rose to almost 900,000, as against 520,000 in the 2008/2009 season, of which 75,000 were foreigners.
“Such growth is due to several factors, among them greater company investment in the country, more mini-cruises, a longer season and more foreign tourists,” said Ricardo Amaral, president at the Brazilian Association of Maritime Companies (Abremar).
According to Amaral, tourists come from several countries, but mainly from the United States, Argentina, Uruguay and Spain. According to him, the Brazilian cruise market expanded rapidly in the late 1990s. “Companies from all over the world noticed the enormous potential of the Brazilian market and started investing in expansion of the sector, sending ships to the country, generating enormous expansion on the national market,” he explained.
The Northeast is the most sought region. “The geographic position of Brazil is extremely favorable for attraction of the interest of companies, especially the coast of the Northeast, which has sunny beaches all year round, excellent resorts, wonderful folklore and rich handicraft, basic ingredients that make the destination attractive in the first world,” he pointed out.
According to figures disclosed by the Ministry of Tourism (MTur), Brazil is currently the sixth cruise market in the world, and may rise to the fifth position. The US market is currently in the 1st place, with 10 million users. Europe, in turn, is reaching 4 million.
The region receiving the greatest number of cruises is the Caribbean, the preferred destination for this market for the last 50 years. The Mediterranean has been the destination most consumed by Europeans during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
However, according to Amaral, in both cases the routes are repeated and there is no more news, so consumers tend to seek new destinations. “In this respect, Brazil is at an advantage over China and Dubai and, furthermore, it is the only country in South America integrating the 40 most sought destinations in the ranking of the World Tourism Organization, a condition that stimulates investment,” guaranteed the president at Abremar.
And if the demand is on the rise, operators are moving to supply consumers. For the 2010/2011 cruise season in Brazil, scheduled to begin in November, CVC should expand its fleet. Alongside vessels CVC Zenith, CVC Soberano and CVC Imperatriz, which should return to the country for the next season, the operator has announced the leasing of another two vessels: CVC Horizon and CVC Bleu de France, with the latter sailing exclusively to Fernando de Noronha.
According to the commercial cruise director at the operator, Rodolfo Szabo, the five vessels operated by CVC should offer additional advantages in the coming season. “Apart from the already traditional ‘all included’ system, to be maintained, the prices of packages should be 20% cheaper as against those currently practiced and free trips should be granted to kids up to 11 years of age,” he said.
While the cruise industry is growing in Brazil, the need for infrastructure improvement is established, as is the need for greater collaboration between maritime operators, ports and the government for the establishment of partnerships. The Ministry of Tourism, through the Work Group for Nautical Tourism, has established a training project for the sector.
In partnership with the ministries of Defense (Navy) and Labor, members of the Work Group signed Terms of Cooperation for the establishment of courses for the training and specialization of professionals related to maritime tourism. The intention is to supply the demand of cruise ships, vessels, people on land and technicians specialized in the repair of small and medium ships.
“The Work Group is aiming at the structuring this sector that has great potential for growth in the country. For this reason, we are concerned about the training and professional improvement of those in the sector,” said the director of the Tourism Articulation, Structuring and Organization Department at the MTur, Ricardo Moesch.
The project also forecasts the adaptation of training courses for sailors, given by the Navy, for the area of tourism.
Apart from that, the Work Group is identifying problems that may have taken place to find solutions and plan investment. “In the last season, investment reached 12 million Brazilian reais (US$ 6.7 million) in different ports, from Belém [in the North] to Paranaguá [in the South]. Until halfway through the year we should be able to define where and how much should be invested in the sector to grant better services to customers in the coming season,” said Moesch.
According to the legislation for Brazilian coastwise navigation, at least 25% of the crew on each vessel should be made up of Brazilians. This year, around 4,000 direct jobs should be generated for Brazilians on board vessels, almost 1,000 more than in the last season. This figure may be even greater if the jobs generated at offices and at reception of vessels are included.
Abremar expects 30% growth in the number of routes, generating 15% growth in work posts. In the last season, maritime cruises were responsible for the generation of over 39,000 direct and indirect jobs in Brazil. For this season, expectations are for the figure to reach 45,000.