Tourism in Brazil accounts directly for 3.1% of GDP, rising to 9.6% if indirect effects are also included. The sector supported 2.1 million jobs in 2018, which accounts for 2.5% of total employment.

In 2018, international tourist arrivals reached 6.6 million, a marginal increase of 0.5% from the previous year, and spent BRL 21.2 billion. Argentina, was the largest source market with 2.5 million tourists (37.7% of the total), followed by the United States (8.1%), Chile (5.9%), Paraguay (5.4%) and Uruguay (5.3%). The five primary source markets demonstrated varying levels of growth in 2018. Forecasts suggest consistent growth of over 2% per year during the period to 2023.

With over 206 million trips in 2015, the domestic market has high potential for growth. The majority of Brazilians choose domestic destinations for their holidays, including carnival and summer breaks. The main destinations are the Northeast, followed by the Southeast and South regions.

The Ministry of Tourism was established in 2003 with a wide role that includes the cross-governmental co-ordination of tourism, planning and research, marketing and promotional activity, regulation, training and education, as well as the development of new products and related infrastructure.

This Ministry overseas two national bodies, the National Council of Tourism, which is responsible for strategic direction and bringing together tourism interests, and the National Forum of State Secretaries and Directors of Tourism which is made up of a representative of state tourism boards. These legally independent regional bodies develop and market tourism in their regions.

In 2017, the Government approved the National Tourism Plan 2018-2022 with the ambitious aims to increase annual international visitor arrivals from 6.6 million to 12 million, create 2 million jobs and encourage 40 million residents to travel domestically. Current challenges faced by the Ministry are the costs and regulatory burden on tourism businesses and the need to encourage regional development.

The Plan sets out a programme to strengthen regional tourism development and recognises the importance of quality improvement, innovation and sustainability. These combine to facilitate a responsible tourism that draws on local attributes such as crafts, culture and cuisine and encourages community development to be sustainable and inclusive. An example is the Investe Turismo Programme (see box).

The Plan has further developed the priorities set out in the Brazil Plus Tourism Plan launched in 2017 which aimed to improve product in key destinations and regions.

A range of measures to stimulate and deregulate the tourism sector is underway including:

  • Improvements to accessing credit and the development of new finance mechanisms to assist all types of tourism development projects which has attracted 118 new proposals with a total value of BRL 4.3 billion,

  • A visa waiver programme for tourists from Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States, as well as extensions to the length of visas for certain workers,

  • A study amongst Mercosur partners to establish a mutual acceptance system, to permit entrance in all countries with a single visa,

  • Improvements to air access with the approval of the Open Skies policy with the United States and authorisation for the entry of low-cost airlines into the domestic market,

  • A new Argentina-Brazil airway policy consolidating around 200 flights per week connecting several destinations and increasing flight frequencies by up to 30%,

  • Import tax exemptions for certain tourism products, such as theme parks, where specialist equipment cannot be sourced nationally. It is estimated this exemption will encourage tourism investment of BRL 1.9 billion and create 56 000 jobs over the next five years,

  • A close partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Education to drive up the volume of participants for vocational training to 193 000 people under the national programme,

  • Action to raise awareness of the regulatory requirements of tourism service providers – this saw a 21% increase in the number of companies registered on the national system.

Marketing activity continues to be prioritised to ensure continued growth. A new focus is to attract international events. It is estimated this could have generated 12 000 new inbound visitors and have a value of BRL 97 million during 2019. A major emphasis to attend international tourism fairs continues, an activity which is expected to underpin sales of USD 54.2 million over the next year.

A core priority of the Plan is the transformation of Embratur (the Brazilian Tourism Promotion Body – attached to the Ministry) into an Agency with a more flexible delivery structure. The related Federal Provisional Act was signed by Government in late November 2019 with Statutes published in December). This includes creating special tourism investment zones that can attract foreign investment, continue to improve regional connectivity, and stimulate more competition in the aviation sector.

Set out in recent law, Brazil has exempted visa requirements for residents of Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States, starting in June 2019. The four countries benefitting from the visa waiver were part of a previous pilot project that also enabled an electronic visa for anyone wishing to visit Brazil. The policy has resulted in a 35.2% increase in the number of visas issued to citizens of these markets, both e-visas and traditional, which represents significant potential foreign exchange income.

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