Blame it on Rio
Brazil's tourism industry has always been a healthy one, especially over the last four years. With the devaluation of the Real in 1999, travelling in and touring Brazil became exceedingly cheap, following the adage: "If you devalue it, they will come." And the tourists flocked.But now the economic crisis in neighbouring Argentina is hitting the Brazilian tourism industry. "Brazil's tourism industry was directly affected by crisis in Argentina. Argentineans are our number one visitors and in 2001 we had a reduction of almost 20 per cent," says Maria Helena M Dunne, Manager, Brazilian Tourism Office. Dunne, however does foresee the industry picking up in the future. She cites the reasons as being: "Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur) has opened up several Tourism Offices abroad in the past three years. Our goal is to promote Brazil as a tourist destination. After 9-11 there is a new perception about safety and Brazil is now seen as a safe destination for vacationers. Add to that the exchange rate is incredibly favourable to foreign tourists. The government she adds has been doing a lot to promote the country's tourism industry. In 1995 President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's administration, jointly with tourism entities and State Secretaries of Industry, Trade and Tourism prepared the National Tourism Plan. With the introduction of this plan, the Brazilian federal government started to embrace the tourism industry as a strategic development activity and many changes were made that supported the industry. "We believed that tourists would flock to Brazil attracted by its natural beauty. We took this for granted and wasted a lot of time. Now, the federal government realises that tourism is a social and economic phenomenon. We have decided to bury the myths and address the structural causes," said Caio Luiz de Cavalho, president of the Embratur. "Infrastructure investment is essential. Brazil will never cater well to foreign tourists if it does not help Brazilians first," says Carvalho. Brazil has a number of festivals scheduled for 2003: Amazonas state festival of Parintins (www.parintins.com); Bahia state festival and the Rio carnival in February to name but a few. For more information check out the Brazilian Tourism Authority's website at www.braziltourism.org.