By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Over the weekend, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro took to social media to proclaim that the just-announced visa waiver for citizens of the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Australia has already produced measurable results in Brazil’s tourism sector. The waiver is scheduled to take effect starting June 17th.
“As expected,” the president exclaimed on Twitter, “an online travel platform has shown that the demand for foreigners interested in visiting Brazil has grown 36 percent after announcing the visa exemption for tourists from Australia, the United States, Canada and Japan.”
The president then retweeted an article from the Money Times which showed that, immediately after the March 18th announcement of the visa waiver, the online travel booking platform Kayak registered an uptick in searches for flights to Brazil from the four countries.
According to Kayak, from March 18th to March 20th, Australia showed a 36 percent increase in searches for flights to Brazil. The U.S. was next with a 31 percent increase, followed by Canada with a nineteen percent increase, and finally Japan, which showed a four percent increase.
“Our tourism and our economy are gaining momentum,” said President Bolsonaro, adding “this demand will continue to grow and should positively impact our services of travel, hospitality, commerce, leisure, etc., generating employment and income to Brazilian citizens.”
Brazil announced that it would be dropping the visa requirement for U.S. citizens during President Bolsonaro’s meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump last week. After the announcement, local media criticized the Brazilian president for not obtaining a reciprocal visa waiver for Brazilian citizens traveling to the U.S.
However, in a joint statement from the two presidents, during their meeting the two leaders had “agreed to take the steps necessary to enable Brazil to participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Global Entry Program.”
While not a waiver of visa requirements, the U.S.’s Global Entry program allows frequent visitors from certain countries to enter the U.S. without having to go through immigration.
To enroll in Global Entry, applicants must first file an application with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and then submit to an interview and background check. Currently, citizens from eleven countries are eligible to apply for Global Entry: Argentina, India, Colombia, the UK, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexico.
In recent years, Brazilians have been traveling to the U.S. in significant numbers. In 2017, 1.9 million Brazilians traveled to the U.S., the sixth-largest inbound tourist group visiting the U.S.
Brazilians are also among the highest-spending tourists to the U.S. Brazilian visitors to the U.S. spent R$7.1 billion in 2017, with each visitor spending an average of R$5,713 per trip.
In 2016, during the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics, Brazil temporarily waived visa requirements for U.S., Canadian, Australian, and Japanese travelers to the country.
Two years later, in January 2018, Brazil launched an e-visa program allowing U.S. citizens to apply for a Brazil visa online without having to go to the consulate.