By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The minister of tourism for Brazil, Marx Beltrão, said yesterday (March 9th) that they are continuing to work to obtain the release of the entry visas in Brazil to countries like the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia.
The ministry has been pushing for this move in face of resistance from the Foreign Ministry, who remain resolved that the visas should be granted in reciprocity to the respective countries.
The Ministry of Tourism, however, continues to make the case for a repeat of the measure that was in place during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last year, which opened visas for tourists from these four countries.
The idea is to grant the exemption for tourists from these nations for two years, informed Beltrão, who visited the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro yesterday.
The ministry is also working to implement the electronic visa in other countries, such as China, which today is one of the largest exporters of tourists in the world. They are countries, according to the minister, that offer no type of immigration risk and have per capita spending (per individual) higher than the international average.
A study by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that there is an increase of 25 percent per year of tourists when there is a visa-free policy. “So if we make this policy, we will have in our country about 200,000 to 250,000 more tourists a year coming from these nations, spending a lot of money here,” he said.
Rodrigo Braz Vieira, director from travel and tour operator in Rio, Bravietour, agrees that this visa waiver would boost the industry. “Tourism destinations in developing countries compete a lot everyday for visitors of wealthier countries.”
Adding, “The modern traveler will always choose the easier way when traveling, and for sure a visa makes Brazil loose in competitiveness in relation to other countries that offers similar attractions as Brazil. I’m favor of making the process easier by allowing the visitors to come and charge and grant them for the visa at the airport.”
Sam Flowers, an American expatriate in Rio and owner of the Gringo Cafe in Ipanema also agrees “I think that lifting the visa requirement for the U.S., Canada, Japan and Australia would dramatically increase foreign tourism in Rio. In 3 to 5 years it could easily double today’s typical level of visitation.”
Explaining, “The hassle factor, delay and uncertainty involved in getting a visa prior to visiting Brazil definitely limits the number of business and leisure tourists, especially when you consider that Rio is in competition for these visitors with destinations in Europe, Mexico and Asia that are much more convenient and often offer a better value in terms of price and quality.”
Rio native Márcia Håberg, owner of the Português Carioca language school in Leblon, shared “Most of foreigners who look for Student Visa in my school come from USA, Germany, Syria, India… It’s likely that the removal of those requirements would increase the number of tourists in Brazil.”
The tourism minister also stressed that Brazil is going through a recession and attracting more tourists can generate jobs. Minister Beltrão estimated that if the visa-free policy is approved in the first half of the year, Brazil will surpass the seven million tourists by the end of this year.
National tourism grew two percent this summer, moving R$100 billion, according to the minister. The number of foreign tourists grew by eleven percent. Beltrão said, “We have everything to reach twelve million tourists in the next four years, if all we are trying to do is approved by the National Congress.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry however has the position that any agreement should be have reciprocity, with Brazilians being able to travel to those countries also without the need for visas. That is, visa exemption can only be granted if Brazilians are also entitled to the same benefit. Currently, Brazilians need prior visas before traveling to the four countries.