By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil received a record number of foreign tourists in 2011, according to figures released by the Ministry of Tourism. The number of foreigners increased 5.3 percent to over 5.43 million, beating the previous record of 5.36 million visitors from overseas, set in 2005.
The increase in foreign visitors was driven by strong growth from neighboring countries in South America.
The numbers of visitors from countries in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of emerging economies also swelled, with a massive forty percent increase in visitors from Russia – who no longer require a visa to visit.
Argentina continues to hold the top spot: 1.6 million Argentinians came to Brazil in 2011. Visitors from the U.S. placed second, accounting for 10.9 percent, and Uruguayans took third place with 4.8 percent.
Visitors from Europe accounted for nearly 30 percent of total overseas tourists, or 1.62 million – up marginally on 2010.
But despite the increase in visitor numbers, Brazil still lags behind neighboring Argentina – which saw 5.7 million foreigners visiting in 2011, and is well behind Mexico, which managed to attract 22.4 million tourists last year.
The Ministry also revealed that seventy percent of those coming to Brazil entered the country through an airport. Despite the growth, in the run-up to Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup, FIFA expressed concern that the country’s airports were unprepared for the inevitable influx of tourists that would accompany the games.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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