BRASILIA – Brasilia has begun checking into the legalities of developing greater international tourist flows and increasing the number of annual foreign visitors from the current 6.5 million to at least 10 million over the next four years.
“This is about modernizing the legislation,” opening up the country to foreign investment in tourism infrastructure and launching new promotional campaigns for a country that “has its arms open to the world” and is looking to the sector to strengthen its economic recovery, Tourism Minister Marx Beltrao told EFE in an interview.
Among the assorted measures contemplated in the “Brazil+Tourism” program announced three months ago, the minister emphasized the need to improve air connections both with foreign nations and domestically.
With that goal in mind, the government of Michel Temer sent to Congress a bill opening up the civil aviation sector to foreign companies, which could set up operations in Brazil or even acquire full ownership of national airlines, a significant expansion of the 20 percent share such firms are currently allowed to own.
Beltrao said that approval of the bill will revolutionize the national air market, which presently includes four big companies and it will serve to support the country’s promotional campaigns, which in turn will be strengthened by the companies that enter the market.
“The foreign firms themselves would sell their packages, would seek their customers and would stimulate tourism,” he said.
In addition, he said that “with more airlines, there will be more competitiveness, better prices, more routes and, of course, more tourists traveling around the country.”
While foreign tourism flows are expected to increase, domestic tourism will also rise from the current 60 million Brazilians per year who engage in tourism activities to 100 million in the next four years, Beltrao said.
The minister also expressed confidence that another stimulus for foreign tourism will be the issuing of electronic visas for citizens of “strategic” countries, including the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada, four of the biggest tourist-sending nations in the world.
The e-visas will be available online within 48 hours, will eliminate bureaucratic procedures and costs and will be a new measure to facilitate travel by those interested in getting to know Brazil, which – according to the World Tourism Organization – is one of the countries with the greatest development potential in the sector.
Beltrao said that although Brazil is a country with high rates of violence, such incidents are “unusual problems” that “are the exception, not the rule,” and the country can present itself to the world as a destination “without terrorism or natural disasters and with much to offer.”