Brazil’s tourism industry is “back in the game”, with government investment to soar from $8 million this year to $200 million in 2020.
Gilson Machado Neto, who became president of Embratur in April, said he hopes Brazil’s six million annual international tourist arrivals could “even reach 20 million” if he gets the rubber-stamp on a raft of regulatory changes to facilitate growth.
These include changes to gaming laws to allow casinos in Brazil for the first time, with plans to develop several integrated “clusters” of hotels and casinos. They also include softening certain maritime laws, to make it more attractive for cruise ships to visit Brazil’s ports. “Carnival Corporation is poised to invest $1.5 billion in Rio de Janeiro,” he told TTG at WTM London.
The government has also amended its immigration policy, meaning tourists from countries including the US, Japan, Canada and China no longer need a visa to visit Brazil.
More than 1,000 diving sites are to be created with purpose-sunk wrecks in a bid to make Brazil the world’s number-one scuba diving destination.
“More people visit the Eiffel Tower in one year than visit Brazil, and the number is not going up,” Neto pointed out.
“Many of our hotels have only 45% occupancy. If we can bring tourists back to them, it will create a huge impact in terms of employment,” he added.
The tourist board hopes to win approval next week to change its operational model, to allow it more autonomy from the government and the flexibility to work with private sector partners.
Neto claimed Brazil is a safer and more stable country under its controversial new right-wing government, which came to power in January 2019.
“The investment risk rating of Brazil is down from 553 to 113; inflation is down from 12% to 3%; and violence is down by 28%,” he claimed.
Embratur closed its overseas offices last year. The tourist board president said that promotional activity would be coordinated in Brazil, working with local airlines in different source markets.
“We are working to change how we show Brazil to the world,” said Neto. “Yes, we have caipirinhas and samba, but it is not all we have. We also need to promote our culture and gastronomy, our Amazon rainforest and Pantanal, and our 8,500km coastline which has beautiful beaches and no hurricanes.”