Novos Turistas

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about the new Open Skies commercial aviation agreement that was signed between Brazil and the United States. The agreement removes restrictions on all flights between the two nations, which should result in an increased number of flights between the two largest airline markets in the Americas as well expanded routes, more connections, and cheaper fares for an increasing number of passengers.

Although Open Skies only begins to take effect in October 2011, some of its intended results—namely a major increase in traffic—have already kicked in. According to stats released by Embratur, Brazil’s tourism agency, last year Brazil received a whopping 5.1 million tourists; a greater number than any since the heady pre-Recession days of 2005.

Although Open Skies only begins to take effect in October 2011, some of its intended results—namely a major increase in traffic—have already kicked in.

Of course, back in 2005, the U.S. dollar was riding high against the Brazilian real with $1 buying you 2.5 reais whereas last year that same $1 only got you 1.7 reais (the Euro has also taken a hit against the mighty real). For this reason, I was surprised to read about the rise in the number of tourists, which represents a 7.5 percent increase over 2009 figures.

According to Embratur’s president, Mário Moysés, the expectation is that foreigners will continue to flock to Brazil. “Over the last few years, there has been an increasing interest in Brazil,” he said in a recent interview published by the Folha de São Paulo “Not just as a tourist destination, but in terms of the way it’s inserted itself in the world.”

Indeed, 27 percent of visitors who traveled to Brazil last year did so on business. While overall, Argentineans comprised the largest contingent of foreign travelers (27 percent), the second largest contingent were Americans (12 percent).

While more estrangeiros are visiting Brazil, Brazilians themselves are taking advantage of their robust currency and increased disposable income to travel abroad in unprecedented droves. After neighbor Argentina—Brazilians’ top foreign travel destination—the most popular destination for Brazilians with bucks to burn is the United States. And burning bucks is just what they do—and better than anyone else apparently (see above video).

According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2010, Brazilians shot past the reigning champs, the Japanese, to become the biggest spending tourists in America. Last year, the average Brazilian spent an impressive US$4,925 per person while traveling in the U.S.; measured in terms of purchasing power, this makes one Brazilian tourist the equivalent of 4.7 Canadian and 7.5 Mexican tourists.

What’s really interesting about the increasing number of Brazilians traveling abroad is that more than half are from the swelling ranks of Brazil’s so-called “C Class,” whose members belong to families that earn between R$1,600 (US$1,000) and R$5,500 (US$3,500) a month.

Now representing more than 40 percent of the country’s 185 million residents, these formerly poor and working-class Brazilians of the “D” and “E Classes” have moved up in the world as a result of a booming economy, increased salaries, and access to credit, and are now traveling more than ever before to places such as Buenos Aires, Miami, and New York (the top 3 destinations for these novos turistas). In doing so, they’ve already begun transforming the ideal of Open Skies into a reality.


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