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Brazil Poised to Boost US Visitors in 2019

Brazilian government and tourism officials are positioning the country for a significant boost in visits from its largest international market, the United States. Recently elected president Jair Bolsonaro said earlier this week, the country will eliminate visa requirements for American visitors. The announcement follows initiatives enacted last year to boost U.S. travel to South America’s largest country.

The visa plan is part of a government strategy to double Brazil’s international visits to 12 million annual visitors by 2022, said tourism minister Marcelo Alvaro Antonio.

U.S. citizens currently are charged $40 for a two-year visa and $160 for a 10-year visa. In addition to Americans, Brazil will also seek to end visa requirements for Canadian, Japanese and Australian travelers, although those moves will occur in a timeline, later to be determined by the Foreign Ministry, Antonio said.

Antonio added that Bolsonaro, who has expressed admiration for U.S. president Donald Trump, wants to “embrace” the United States “as a partner of Brazil.” Americans represent Brazil’s second-largest source of leisure travelers, trailing only neighboring Argentina.

Brazilian officials will also double the country’s international tourism marketing budget to more than $34 million by 2023, said Antonio, and convert the current national tourism board into an agency, which will allow the organization to partner with private enterprises including airlines.

“We currently invest $17 million in international promotion while our competitors invest between $50 and $100 million,” Teté Bezerra, EMBRATUR’s president, said last year. “We have to be more robust, to create partnerships and to promote Brazil abroad, through public relations, publicity and international events.”

In 2018 Brazil launched an electronic “e-visa” program that allows Americans to apply online for $40, down from the $160 fee previously charged at U.S.-based consulates. Approved applicants receive a visa within 72 hours of submitting documents, officials said.

Since the program’s launch, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted 119,066 e-visas to visitors from U.S., Japan, Canada and Australia, the four countries covered under the program. Of that number, nearly 70 percent of visas were issued to American citizens.

PHOTO: Embratur president Teté Bezerra. (Photo via Brazillian Tourism Board)

While Rio de Janeiro is easily Brazil’s most-visited and popular city for travelers, the massive country has several regions that offer travelers distinctive experiences in 2019.

Salvador

Brazil’s fourth-largest city will offer travelers plenty of “Axé,” a term meaning positive energy, often used by Africa’s Yorubá people, ancestors of Brazil’s Salvador residents, in 2019.

Salvador’s Carnival celebration is set for February 28 to March 6 and will feature seven days of non-stop partying, music, food and culture throughout the Lenten Carnival season. The city’s renovated Pelourinho district (a Brazilian word designating an area where slaves were punished), is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site distinguished by 17th and 18th-century colonial buildings and will offer food, crafts, art and musical performances

Also newly opened in the city is Casa do Carnaval, a museum dedicated to the Carnival celebration’s artistic, cultural and historical significance in Brazil. Accommodation options include the Fasano Salvador, a luxury hotel which opened in December in a historic Salvador building.

The International Airport of Salvador will expand its facilities in 2019, following Latam Airlines’ launch of a new direct flight to the city from Miami. Salvador also recently opened a subway connecting the city center to the airport.

Sao Paulo

Cosmopolitan Sao Paulo (known as “Sampa” among locals), is featuring a typically diverse series of events for travelers in 2019, including the Sao Paulo International Art Exhibition (SP-Arte), beginning April 15. The event will feature panel discussions, exhibition openings, and special guests offering an overview of the contemporary art scene.

In May, Sao Paulo’s Virada Cultural will offer a 48-hour celebration of Brazilian culture, history and heritage to the city. The celebration will offer indigenous music, theater, art and food, with many events taking place in Roosevelt Square, a trendy area featuring theaters, restaurants and bars that are ideal for people-watching.

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