By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Surprisingly positive news from Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism on Monday, March 26th, showed that in 2017 Brazil received the largest number of international tourists in the country’s history, surpassing both 2016, during the Rio Olympic Games, and 2014 during the FIFA World Cup.
The increase in tourism last year can be mostly attributed to visitors from Brazil’s South American neighbors. In 2017, the number of South American tourists in Brazil increased eleven percent, rising from 3.7 million in 2016 to 4.1 million in 2017. These 4.1 million visitors from South America represent 62 percent of the total number of overseas visitors to Brazil last year.
Topping the list of countries with the most tourists that visited Brazil in 2017 was Argentina. Brazil’s neighbor to the south accounted for 2,622,327 visitors last year, almost forty percent of all of Brazil’s international tourists and fourteen percent more than in 2016.
“[This] is logical since having a beach vacation in Argentina is far more expensive than traveling to Brazil,” explained Nohelia Sanchez, co-founder of travel and tourism agency RdJ4U, to The Rio Times. “Nevertheless, these visitors consume hotels and gastronomy but less services, and they are looking for price over quality.”
The United States had the second most tourists to Brazil in 2017, sending some 475,200 tourists last year, a decrease of seven percent from 2016. Despite the reduction, according to the report, since the federal government implemented the e-visa program for U.S. travelers earlier this year, the number of visas issued to U.S. tourists has jumped almost ninety percent.
The e-visa system cuts the time it takes for a visitor to receive a Brazil travel authorization from ninety days to three days as the entire process can be done online without ever having to visit the consulate.
Coming in third for the most international tourists to Brazil in 2017 was Chile with approximately 342,100 visitors, a five percent increase over 2016.
Monday’s Ministry of Tourism report also detailed the Brazilian cities most visited by international tourists last year. Brazil’s commercial capital, São Paulo, topped the list receiving 2,144,606 foreign tourists last year, about 33 percent of all of Brazil’s overseas tourists.
“São Paulo has been doing lots of efforts inviting business visitors to stay longer and to explore the city,” Sanchez noted. “It will be interesting to read what are those visitors doing and how long are they staying.”
In second place was Rio de Janeiro with 1,355,616 international tourists last year, approximately 21 percent of all foreign visitors. The gateway for most of Brazil’s Argentinian tourists, Rio Grande do Sul, was third with 1.27 million tourists last year.
Finally, despite having registered a decrease of four percent last year, air remains the main means of travel for international tourists. Of all foreign tourists visiting Brazil in 2017, 4.2 million (64 percent), traveled by air. About 2.25 million visitors (34 percent) traveled by car, with the remaining 140,000 traveling by ship.
For Brazil’s Minister of Tourism, Marx Beltrão, Brazil needs to continue to push bold measures to further 2017’s increases. “We have defended the reinforcement in the international promotion, the modernization of Embratur and the opening of the country to the global market as a way to boost international tourism in our country.”
Despite the increase in numbers, Sanchez added that the future of tourism in the country still faces many uncertainties. “It is very difficult to forecast anything in a year of elections, especially when the country is facing social commotion due to the recent events and the global economy affects directly all the economies in South America. We just hope for the best and keep moving, adapting to whatever the new conditions will be.”
Monday’s positive tourism report comes amid a wave of mostly negative headlines surrounding Brazil, namely the ongoing political scandals, a weak economy, and increased crime and violence.
In late 2017, a survey conducted by the National Confederation of Commerce of Goods, Services, and Tourism, showed that Rio de Janeiro was the most affected by the negative publicity, with the Cidade Maravilhosa losing more than R$657 million in tourism revenues during first eight months 2017.