By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With the devaluation of the Brazilian real in relation to the U.S. dollar and the economy slowing down, Brazilians are planning to spend their vacations this year traveling within Brazil and not going abroad, according to a recent survey conducted by Brazil’s Tourism Ministry and Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV). According to the survey, 77.4 percent of Brazilians planning to travel this year will be doing it close to home, the highest rate in the past ten years for the month of April.
“The natural, cultural and business attractions, allied to the gains in infrastructure are the factors which boost Brazilian tourism,” said Henrique Alves, Minister of Tourism after the release of the survey. Alves admits, however that Brazil has a great tourism potential to be explored, but that infrastructure for tourism within the country and a better promotion of places and things to see in Brazil are needed if the country wants to increase its domestic tourism.
According to the Tourism Ministry, Brazilians have always preferred to travel within the country instead of going abroad, but factors such as costs of air travel, accommodations and infrastructure have always swayed travelers to look for international destinations.
This year with the foreign exchange rate hovering around R$3.00/US$, foreign travel has become much more expensive, and Brazilians are re-assessing their options. Infrastructure to major tourist spots within the country have also improved due to investments made for last year’s World Cup.
More than 206 million trips were made by more than 62 million tourists in Brazil last year, with the country advancing by 23 positions in the competitive tourism ranking by the Global Economic Forum last week, when Brazil went from the 51st to the 28th position.
This year the survey conducted by the Ministry and FGV shows that approximately 10.9 million extra domestic trips will be taken, bringing the sector revenues of over R$18.66 billion.
Eliana Ferrari, a travel agent at Goldtur, however, says that her agency has not seen that many people substituting international vacations for domestic ones. In March travelers were initially stunned by the daily increase in the foreign exchange rate, but with the stabilization of the rate, Brazilians are once again thinking about traveling abroad.
“Prices for air transportation in U.S. dollars decreased since April. There have been a lot of good promotions for international air travel,” she says, adding that this week alone she closed eight international air travel packages.
“What I have seen, due to the hike in the U.S. dollar [exchange rate] is an adaptation of travel plans: less days, instead of a direct flight one with connections, and instead of a four-star hotel, a three-star one,” she explained.
Ferrari notes that while U.S. airfares have decreased, airfares for domestic travel destinations remain the same. “You find great bargains in international airfares, such as São Paulo-Buenos Aires for US$160.00. Something you don’t see in domestic airfares,” she concludes.
The Consumer Travel Survey is conducted on a monthly basis by the Ministry of Tourism along with FGV in the seven main capitals in Brazil, which represent seventy percent of all the tourism flow in the country.