By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite political uncertainty and well-publicized security concerns, according to Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism, tourism numbers in Brazil are up for the first half of 2018, with both inbound tourism and tourist spending showing increases compared to a year earlier.
The number of foreign tourists in Brazil through June reached 3.15 million, an increase of eight percent compared to the first six months of 2017. An impressive feat considering that in 2017 Brazil finished the year with 6.6 million international tourists, the largest in the country’s history surpassing both 2016, during the Rio Olympic Games, and 2014 during the FIFA World Cup.
International tourist spending in Brazil also rose 5.6 percent between January and June of this year compared to the same period last year, totalling US$3.24 billion, compared to US$ 3.06 billion in 2017.
“The data reinforce that tourism is a vector of the economy that has to be addressed,” exclaimed Vinicius Lummertz, who was named Brazil’s Minister of Tourism earlier this year.
Analysts also forecast a positive second half of 2018 in Brazil’s tourism sector with the addition of more international direct flights to Brazil thanks to the recent U.S.-Brazil Open Skies agreement. LATAM airlines recently announced it would be adding new direct flights to/from São Paulo and Las Vegas and Boston.
According to Pablo Chiozza, senior vice president at LATAM Airlines Group, one of the main factors for adding the direct flight between São Paulo and Boston was the number of Brazilians now residing in the U.S. northeast city.
“Brazilians are mainly in South Florida and that area is pretty well covered by us already,” explained Chiozza, to the travel news agency, Travel Pulse.
“But the second place you do see a lot of Brazilians is in the Boston area and all of those passengers of course are already flying to Brazil but doing it through New York or Miami.”
LATAM also revealed that existing routes will also see more flights added including those between São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro and Tel-Aviv, Lisbon, Paris, Rome, and Munich.
In addition, the new electronic visa, offered for visitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan, has also provided a big boost to the tourism sector. Since the launch of the program in February, U.S. and Canadian visa applications are up almost fifty percent over last year, while Australian and Japanese visa applications are up 35 and 23 percent respectively.