The head of the Brazilian Tourist Board has dispelled criticism of the Rio Olympics – including Zika fears and security concerns – insisting the Games have reinforced the country’s potential to become a tourism powerhouse.
Embratur president Vinicius Lummertz told TTG that Brazil had “never been so promoted” as a holiday destination as during the 2016 Games, with up to half a million visitors to Rio de Janeiro itself and a global television audience of more than three billion.
This was in spite of numerous negative stories around the Zika virus, tourist and athlete security, plus a lack of spectators attending venues.
Lummertz said he believed the country had “overcome suspicions” created through the media’s reporting and that Brazil’s hosting of the competition was made “even more rewarding” due to the ongoing political and economic “crisis” it faces.
“Zika has damaged the world’s press more than it has damaged Brazil,” Lummertz said. “Every soul these days knows that news channels need to keep the thrill in how they report stories, so they have to keep making reports more dramatic, even though [Zika] is a non-issue in Rio.”
He also dismissed security concerns in the city, despite several athletes reporting robberies at gunpoint, including a member of Team GB. “During the [2014 Fifa] World Cup, 92% of foreign tourists we polled said they felt safe in Brazil and we have seen similar figures from visitors to Rio – people wouldn’t come if they didn’t feel safe.”
The tourism chief said the Olympics had allowed Brazil to “stretch its arms” and appeal to a variety of tourism markets.
Meanwhile Lummertz said the relaunch of Embratur’s Visit Brazil website on August 15 – modelled on Brand USA’s visttheUSA.com – would be “crucial” to attracting more travellers, in conjunction with a push next year to encourage more operators to sell the destination.