By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Tension between Brazil’s Foreign Ministry and Tourism Ministry over visa exemptions to certain countries, was revealed by local media over the weekend. While Tourism minister sees the exemption as an opportunity to increase the country’s revenues with tourism, the Foreign Ministry says visa waivers should be reciprocal.
“According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), travel facilitation measures such as visa waiver can generate up to a 25 percent increase in the flow of destinations involved,” said Brazil’s Tourism Minister, Marx Beltrão, in February.
Adding, “Based on this study and the history of tourist spending in the beneficiary countries, we projected revenues of up to R$1.4 billion with the measure in two years.”
Minister Beltrão stated his support for the waiver of visas to citizens of the U.S., Japan, Canada and Australia, days after U.S. President Donald Trump issued travel bans to seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. Since then, Brazilians have been finding it more difficult to obtain tourist visas to enter the US.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry, however, argues 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.
On Monday, March 6th, entities related to the tourism industry expressed their concern as to the possible difficulties imposed on by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and other government entities to the waiver project. According to the entities the waiver for the Olympics was a success.
“At a time when Brazil is suffering the highest unemployment rate since 2012 and suffers from one of the country’s greatest economic crises, it is time to finally correct historical neglect with tourism,” said the entities in an open letter to the Temer Administration.
“The tourism class entities defend not only the visa waiver for strategic countries as occurred in the Olympics with an extremely positive impact, but also the elaboration of a broader package that includes once for all tourism in the government’s strategic and economic agenda,” stated the note.