Brazil, the land of beaches, bikinis and carnival, is not exploiting its tourism potential and could miss the chance to become a major travel destination, tourism industry officials said.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil Brazil, the land of beaches, bikinis and carnival, is not exploiting its tourism potential and could miss the chance to become a major travel destination, tourism industry officials said.
Participants at the Destination Brazil 2005 international tourism conference in Rio de Janeiro said the government and the private sector must spend aggressively on new hotels, better service and advertising to lure tourists.
"It is a popular belief that Brazil is a touristic country, but it isn't, if you look at the numbers," said Pedro Fortes, Brazilian Hotel Industry Association director.
The country accounted for less than 1 percent of international tourism flow, he said.
Indeed, the 4.6 million people visiting Brazil, a country with over 5,000 miles of beaches, rich culture and biodiversity, are vastly outnumbered by the 51 million going annually to Spain or 42 million to the United States.
"With the war on terror going on in the world, traditional tourism routes have changed and this is an opportunity of a lifetime for Brazil. The time to act is now," said Liberal Lopes, president of U.S.-based Skyline tourism company and head of the Brazil Tour Operators Association.
The government wants to double the annual number of tourists to 9 million by 2007, but officials were skeptical.
"I don't see any specific plans to boost investment. Without that and without bringing direct flights from the United States to northeastern Brazil, it is physically impossible to reach that goal," Lopes told Reuters.
Brazil's poor Northeast is enjoying a boom in hotel development, with some European companies taking charter planes full of tourists from Scandinavian countries, Britain and Spain there and even investing in property.
"But to make it a trend we have to promote Brazil a lot and for a long term, for those who are building hotels now to be sure that it is not just a wave that rolls back very soon," said Carlos Barros, director of EI Destination Management Company that works with European tourists.
Officials said Brazil had to invest at least 1 percent of its estimated annual $3.2 billion in revenues from tourism for normal sustainable development of the sector, but if it wanted to double the visitors' flow that share had to be much higher.