Brazil’s Minister of Tourism, Walfrido Mares Guia, reiterated the special attention his ministry has been paying to Rio de Janeiro, which “is Brazil’s greatest international tourist attraction.”
At the opening, October 21, of the 32nd National Tourism Congress of the Brazilian Association of Travel Agencies (Abav), the Minister recalled that 38% of the foreign tourists who visit the country go through Rio de Janeiro and 97% of them say they want to return.
The security problem, touted by the London press in a criticism of Brazil, is mentioned by only 8% of the tourists polled in a recent study on the problems of tourism in the state of Rio, Mares Guia pointed out.
For international visitors who come to Rio de Janeiro, the priorities are improving traffic signs, training employees in tourist establishments, and improving taxi services, to eliminate the abuses that occur in the busy season.
The Minister assured, as did President Lula at the inauguration of the Abav Congress, that the intention is not to minimize any of the problems.
“We want to deal with all of them, but we also want to display the beauty of Rio to Brazil and to the world. And it is unparalleled,” he affirmed.
Mares Guia said that Rio can already boast the renovation of the Tom Jobim International Airport, as well as an “extraordinary” hotel network, “to say nothing of the natural charms.”
In the Minister’s opinion, what Rio needs is investment in promotion, marketing, and sales support.
The Minister announced at the Congress that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has already authorized a 60% increase in the federal government’s tourism budget for 2005.
“The Ministry’s basic budget will rise to US$ 135.9 million (388 million reais), as against 79.9 million (228 million reais) this year,” he revealed.
The Minister informed that next year’s priorities will be promotion, infrastructure development, and the training of personnel.
Mares Guia explained that the current economic situation favors the development of tourism, which, in global terms, is growing twice as fast as the basic economy.
At the opening of the Congress, President Lula declared that tourism is the most effective and least expensive way to bring about social inclusion.
“It is an activity that can generate work for millions of adolescents. Tourism is the tool to restore hope to these people,” he said.
According to the President, the problem that keeps foreign tourists away from Brazil is the negative image the country has abroad.
“These facts cannot occur, and they do nothing to help tourism. It is necessary to know how to deal with them. We have to expose the problems, but without affecting the country’s essence,” he emphasized.
The government plans to allot US$ 80 million to the Ministry of Tourism to develop policies in this area.
Lula underscored that one of the ways these funds will be applied will be in the preservation of historical monuments.
Translator: David Silberstein