• Categories
  • Archives

The Number of Foreign Tourists in Brazil Is Dismal. The Country Needs a More Positive Narrative

Brazil is number one in natural resources, but get too few foreign tourist Brazil is number one in natural resources, but get too few foreign tourist

It is home to the largest rainforest in the world. It has miles of sandy, deserted beaches, and stunning flat-topped mountains. It invented samba and a drink called caipirinha. So why does Brazil have so few tourists?

Despite the seeming abundance of riches for travelers, Brazil has a tourism problem. Because while you may have heard about the Amazon or the stunning beaches of Rio de Janeiro, you have probably also heard that Brazil has high crime rates, was affected by the outbreak of the Zika virus and that its politicians have concocted the largest graft scheme in Latin American history.

Most likely you’ve never visited Brazil. Only 6.6 million foreigners did last year, when the country hosted the Olympics, according to the Ministry of Tourism. That’s about half the number that go to the tiny city-state of Singapore – and this in a continent-sized country that the World Economic Forum ranks Number 1 in natural resources and Number 8 in cultural resources.

“The highest gap between potential in tourism in the world and what’s been realized so far is Brazil,” said Vinicius Lummertz, the president of Embratur, Brazil’s tourism board.

“We have (everything) from Xingu (an indigenous reserve) and Indians to Oktoberfest in Santa Catarina” – not to mention having hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Measures to Boost Tourism

In the face of a deep and protracted recession, the government is now hoping to change all that with several measures that aim to nearly double the number of foreign visitors in the next five years. But hoteliers, travel bloggers and others who work in tourism say there are many obstacles to still overcome.

The government’s plans include the introduction of a new law that would allow 100 percent foreign ownership of airlines, with the aim of increasing flight routes and driving down the cost of travel. Another plank will allow Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Australians – all of whom need visas to visit Brazil – to apply for visas online, instead of at a consulate.

Cheaper flights and a smoother visa procedures will address some tourist complaints about Brazil, but Alison McGowan says the plan ignores the most glaring problem: Nobody knows how great Brazil is in the first place.

“People don’t even get as far as (applying for a visa),” said McGowan, the CEO of hiddenpousadasbrazil.com, a guide to inns, boutique hotels and B&B’s in Brazil. “They haven’t got people wanting to go to Brazil yet.”

McGowan and other tourism professionals say the government lacks a coherent campaign to promote Brazil abroad – the real country, not just the clichés of Carnaval and soccer great Pelé. Part of the government’s plan is to beef up Embratur. Officials there said they hoped that would lead to a doubling of investment in promotion.

Last year, Embratur had a US$ 16 million budget – which the agency said was much less than what other South American countries spend. McGowan and others said Brazil is particularly bad at reaching modern global travelers who research trips and make reservations online. McGowan called the country’s main tourism portal for foreigners, visitbrasil.com, “a disgrace.”

Lummertz, the president of Embratur, says the government’s plan will help promote Brazil abroad. But he says that the nation’s tourist blues go beyond that. Latin America’s largest nation is still struggling to overcome decades of isolation and remains the most closed of the so-called BRICS economies, he says.

This has certain repercussions for tourism: High import taxes and other hangovers from isolation make the country expensive for travelers and reduce the quality of goods and services. Few Brazilians speak English – partly because they are unlikely to come across global travelers here.

It’s impossible, of course, to gloss over Brazil’s real problems. It has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Rio’s bay is polluted. And Zika is indeed a risk. But the government and Embratur need a counter-narrative for tourists.

“What is the world capital of pickpockets? It’s Barcelona,” said Ricardo Freire, who founded the Brazilian travel blog viajenaviagem.com. “But (the residents) don’t tell you not to come there.”

The drawbacks of Brazil also need to be put in context. Tourists are not likely to be visiting tough urban neighborhoods where most of the crime happens, notes Emmanuel Rengade, the owner of the luxury, ecological hotels Pousada Picinguaba and Fazenda Catucaba. In the countryside, Rengade says he doesn’t even lock his door.

As for Zika, a mosquito-borne disease that has been linked to a rare birth defect. Cases this year have fallen dramatically, and the government earlier this month declared the emergency over.

Rio’s bay might be polluted, but the country has more unspoiled nature to visit than any one person could hope to see in a lifetime. And contrary to Brazil’s messy image, Ben Feetham says: “Everything seems to work.”

Feetham, who is a reviewer for i-escape.com, a site that curates a selection of boutique hotels and inns, honeymooned in Brazil in April and said he had none of the usual stress about airport transfers or bus connections.

All of the fuss over reputation and promotion ignores the No. 1 thing tourists like best about Brazil in surveys: the people, known for being easygoing and welcoming.

“Anybody who goes to Brazil comes back loving it,” said Pauline Frommer, the co-publisher of the Frommer’s guidebooks and frommers.com. “The key is getting people there.”

DW

Tags:

  • Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ads

You May Also Like

Carioca Nights

Talking to himself the old man whispered something I didn’t understand. And then he ...

It seems the future never arrives in Brazil What Lies Ahead in Brazil? Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country? Europeans, US, developed country, developing country. Bolsonaro, future B. Michael Rubin For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country is one simple way to measure its economic development. Another way to measure a country's progress is the extent of public education, e.g. how many citizens complete high school. A country's health may be measured by the effectiveness of its healthcare system, for example, life expectancy and infant mortality. With these measurement tools, it's easier to gauge the difference between a country like Brazil and one like the U.S. What's not easy to gauge is how these two countries developed so differently when they were both "discovered" at the same time. In 1492 and 1500 respectively, the U.S. and Brazil fell under the spell of white Europeans for the first time. While the British and Portuguese had the same modus operandi, namely, to exploit their discoveries for whatever they had to offer, not to mention extinguishing the native Americans already living there if they got in the way, the end result turned out significantly different in the U.S. than in Brazil. There are several theories on how/why the U.S. developed at a faster pace than Brazil. The theories originate via contrasting perspectives – from psychology to economics to geography. One of the most popular theories suggests the divergence between the two countries is linked to politics, i.e. the U.S. established a democratic government in 1776, while Brazil's democracy it could be said began only in earnest in the 1980s. This theory states that the Portuguese monarchy, as well as the 19th and 20th century oligarchies that followed it, had no motivation to invest in industrial development or education of the masses. Rather, Brazil was prized for its cheap and plentiful labor to mine the rich soil of its vast land. There is another theory based on collective psychology that says the first U.S. colonizers from England were workaholic Puritans, who avoided dancing and music in place of work and religious devotion. They labored six days a week then spent all of Sunday in church. Meanwhile, the white settlers in Brazil were unambitious criminals who had been freed from prison in Portugal in exchange for settling in Brazil. The Marxist interpretation of why Brazil lags behind the U.S. was best summarized by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, in 1970. Galeano said five hundred years ago the U.S. had the good fortune of bad fortune. What he meant was the natural riches of Brazil – gold, silver, and diamonds – made it ripe for exploitation by western Europe. Whereas in the U.S., lacking such riches, the thirteen colonies were economically insignificant to the British. Instead, U.S. industrialization had official encouragement from England, resulting in early diversification of its exports and rapid development of manufacturing. II Leaving this debate to the historians, let us turn our focus to the future. According to global projections by several economic strategists, what lies ahead for Brazil, the U.S., and the rest of the world is startling. Projections forecast that based on GDP growth, in 2050 the world's largest economy will be China, not the U.S. In third place will be India, and in fourth – Brazil. With the ascendency of three-fourths of the BRIC countries over the next decades, it will be important to reevaluate the terms developed and developing. In thirty years, it may no longer be necessary to accept the label characterized by Nelson Rodrigues's famous phrase "complexo de vira-lata," for Brazil's national inferiority complex. For Brazilians, this future scenario presents glistening hope. A country with stronger economic power would mean the government has greater wealth to expend on infrastructure, crime control, education, healthcare, etc. What many Brazilians are not cognizant of are the pitfalls of economic prosperity. While Brazilians today may be envious of their wealthier northern neighbors, there are some aspects of a developed country's profile that are not worth envying. For example, the U.S. today far exceeds Brazil in the number of suicides, prescription drug overdoses, and mass shootings. GDP growth and economic projections depend on multiple variables, chief among them the global economic situation and worldwide political stability. A war in the Middle East, for example, can affect oil production and have global ramifications. Political stability within a country is also essential to its economic health. Elected presidents play a crucial role in a country's progress, especially as presidents may differ radically in their worldview. The political paths of the U.S. and Brazil are parallel today. In both countries, we've seen a left-wing regime (Obama/PT) followed by a far-right populist one (Trump/Bolsonaro), surprising many outside observers, and in the U.S. contradicting every political pollster, all of whom predicted a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Brazil, although Bolsonaro was elected by a clear majority, his triumph has created a powerful emotional polarization in the country similar to what is happening in the U.S. Families, friends, and colleagues have split in a love/hate relationship toward the current presidents in the U.S. and Brazil, leaving broken friendships and family ties. Both presidents face enormous challenges to keep their campaign promises. In Brazil, a sluggish economy just recovering from a recession shows no signs of robust GDP growth for at least the next two years. High unemployment continues to devastate the consumer confidence index in Brazil, and Bolsonaro is suffering under his campaign boasts that his Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, has all the answers to fix Brazil's slump. Additionally, there is no end to the destruction caused by corruption in Brazil. Some experts believe corruption to be the main reason why Brazil has one of the world's largest wealth inequality gaps. Political corruption robs government coffers of desperately needed funds for education and infrastructure, in addition to creating an atmosphere that encourages everyday citizens to underreport income and engage in the shadow economy, thereby sidestepping tax collectors and regulators. "Why should I be honest about reporting my income when nobody else is? The politicians are only going to steal the tax money anyway," one Brazilian doctor told me. While Bolsonaro has promised a housecleaning of corrupt officials, this is a cry Brazilians have heard from every previous administration. In only the first half-year of his presidency, he has made several missteps, such as nominating one of his sons to be the new ambassador to the U.S., despite the congressman's lack of diplomatic credentials. A June poll found that 51 percent of Brazilians now lack confidence in Bolsonaro's leadership. Just this week, Brazil issued regulations that open a fast-track to deport foreigners who are dangerous or have violated the constitution. The rules published on July 26 by Justice Minister Sérgio Moro define a dangerous person as anyone associated with terrorism or organized crime, in addition to football fans with a violent history. Journalists noted that this new regulation had coincidental timing for an American journalist who has come under fire from Moro for publishing private communications of Moro's. Nevertheless, despite overselling his leadership skills, Bolsonaro has made some economic progress. With the help of congressional leader Rodrigo Maia, a bill is moving forward in congress for the restructuring of Brazil's generous pension system. Most Brazilians recognize the long-term value of such a change, which can save the government billions of dollars over the next decade. At merely the possibility of pension reform, outside investors have responded positively, and the São Paulo stock exchange has performed brilliantly, reaching an all-time high earlier this month. In efforts to boost the economy, Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes have taken the short-term approach advocated by the Chicago school of economics championed by Milton Friedman, who claimed the key to boosting a slugging economy was to cut government spending. Unfortunately many economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, disagree with this approach. They believe the most effective way to revive a slow economy is exactly the opposite, to spend more money not less. They say the government should be investing money in education and infrastructure projects, which can help put people back to work. Bolsonaro/Guedes have also talked about reducing business bureaucracy and revising the absurdly complex Brazilian tax system, which inhibits foreign and domestic business investment. It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro has the political acumen to tackle this Godzilla-sized issue. Should Bolsonaro find a way to reform the tax system, the pension system, and curb the most egregious villains of political bribery and kickbacks – a tall order – his efforts could indeed show strong economic results in time for the next election in 2022. Meanwhile, some prominent leaders have already lost faith in Bolsonaro's efforts. The veteran of political/economic affairs, Joaquim Levy, has parted company with the president after being appointed head of the government's powerful development bank, BNDES. Levy and Bolsonaro butted heads over an appointment Levy made of a former employee of Lula's. When neither man refused to back down, Levy resigned his position at BNDES. Many observers believe Bolsonaro's biggest misstep has been his short-term approach to fixing the economy by loosening the laws protecting the Amazon rainforest. He and Guedes believe that by opening up more of the Amazon to logging, mining, and farming, we will see immediate economic stimulation. On July 28, the lead article of The New York Times detailed the vastly increased deforestation in the Amazon taking place under Bolsonaro's leadership. Environmental experts argue that the economic benefits of increased logging and mining in the Amazon are microscopic compared to the long-term damage to the environment. After pressure from European leaders at the recent G-20 meeting to do more to protect the world's largest rainforest, Bolsonaro echoed a patriotic response demanding that no one has the right to an opinion about the Amazon except Brazilians. In retaliation to worldwide criticism, Bolsonaro threatened to follow Trump's example and pull out of the Paris climate accord; however, Bolsonaro was persuaded by cooler heads to retract his threat. To prove who was in control of Brazil's Amazon region, he appointed a federal police officer with strong ties to agribusiness as head of FUNAI, the country's indigenous agency. In a further insult to the world's environmental leaders, not to mention common sense, Paulo Guedes held a news conference on July 25 in Manaus, the largest city in the rainforest, where he declared that since the Amazon forest is known for being the "lungs" of the world, Brazil should charge other countries for all the oxygen the forest produces. Bolsonaro/Guedes also have promised to finish paving BR-319, a controversial highway that cuts through the Amazon forest, linking Manaus to the state of Rondônia and the rest of the country. Inaugurated in 1976, BR-319 was abandoned by federal governments in the 1980s and again in the 1990s as far too costly and risky. Environmentalists believe the highway's completion will seal a death knoll on many indigenous populations by vastly facilitating the growth of the logging and mining industries. Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded a Wajãpi village recently in the state of Amapá near the border of French Guiana and fatally stabbed one of the community's leaders. While Brazil's environmental protection policies are desperately lacking these days, not all the news here was bad. On the opening day of the 2019 Pan America Games in Lima, Peru, Brazilian Luisa Baptista, swam, biked, and ran her way to the gold medal in the women's triathlon. The silver medal went to Vittoria Lopes, another Brazilian. B. Michael Rubin is an American writer living in Brazil.

Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country?

For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. ...

Roads, Railways, Waterways, Dams: an Elaborate Plan to Kill the Amazon

The Amazon’s rivers once were sufficient for commerce, now international commodities traders want to ...

Brazil Not Out of the Woods Yet. 1.3% GDP Growth Lower than Expected

According to the official release on Thursday from the Brazilian statistics office, the IBGE, ...

Brazil: The Shame of Being the World’s 7th Largest Economy

In the 19th century, Victor Hugo refused to shake hands with Pedro II, the ...

A Kayapo boy with traditional body paint and piercing is seen at his home in Kikretum

Global Forest Watch Detecting Record Forest Loss in the Amazon

Brazil topped the list of the world’s most important Places to Watch for deforestation, ...