By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – According to a newly-released study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Brazil is currently losing up to R$1.8 billion in potential tourism revenue for the national economy per year. The study, which looked at investment in natural reserves and protected areas only, concluded these could see as much as R$2.2 billion from entrance fees, private investment and expenditures in the communities that surround them in 2016.
Although Brazil, home to the largest rainforest in the world, is known for its high number of environmental protection areas, investment in managing and developing these areas is very low.
While the number of designated units of environmental protection increased by 83.5 percent between 2001 and 2010, the amount invested in them remained the same, remaining at R$300 million per year.
This means that investment in these biodiverse “units”, lauded for contributing to reducing the loss of indigenous fauna and flora, decreased by forty percent between those years.
“We augmented the percentage of protected areas, but not of resources,” Roberto Vizentin, president of the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade, the government organ responsible for managing federal units of conservation, told O Globo. “We need a larger budget and a management that has other sources for its own sustainability, like international cooperation projects,” he said to the Rio-based daily.
According to the report by the UN body, Brazil invested about R$4 per protected hectare in the year 2010. This is much less than in South Africa, well-known for its safaris, which spends about R$67 per hectare and the United States, which spends R$156 on its massive national parks that span across many states.
There is much potential in the development of green tourism in Brazil because of the growing number of visitors to the country’s national parks. As the study highlights, visitors to Brazilian parks are increasing by ten percent each year, and there is even more room for growth, especially with increasingly higher profile events like this month’s World Youth Day bringing people to the country.
“There really is a gap” between the investment in protected areas and tourism development in Brazil, said the national Secretary for Tourism Policies, Vinícius Lummertz, to The Rio Times.
“There is already a working group between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of the Environment to work together on this,” Lummertz explained, underlining Brazil’s natural beauty as the main draw for visitors worldwide.
Lummertz added that Ministry is working on private initiatives to increase funding in these environmental protection areas. “There is an idea to open the management of these areas to concessions or partnerships with the private sector” in order to open it to private investment, he suggested, without specifying what parks would be open to such programs, or when.
“Eco-tourism is a priority within the government’s National Tourism Plan, which also includes development of national parks,” Lummertz said. The National Tourism Plan seeks to bring Brazil to the third spot on a world ranking that currently places it at sixth place for tourism revenue generation in the world by 2022.
In 2010, Brazil received about five million tourists, lagging behind Latin American destinations like Mexico and Argentina. The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are an opportunity, he added, to “take advantage of Brazil’s increasing visibility” to develop tourism in the country.
Did you like this article? As an independent community news publisher we need advertising and reader support. Please consider making a US$10 or US$50 donation, or buy one of our new T-Shirts online (which provides US$5 to The Rio Times).