Tourism: Brazil - Business and Leisure
by Gérard Bourgeaiseau
Few countries are able to offer as great a variety of tourist options as Brazil. With a land mass the size of a continent - more than 8 million km2 - in terms of area, the nation is fifth in the world, exceeded only by Russia, Canada, the USA and China, occupying almost half of South America. The distances from north to south and from east to west - around 4,300 km in each direction - are greater than from New York to Los Angeles and from Moscow to Lisbon. It embraces contrasting ecosystems such as the Amazon Forest and the Atlantic Forest with their incredibly luxuriant woodlands, the Cerrado (scrublands) and the Caatinga (arid lands) with their twisted trees and landscape that changes radically according to the seasons, the Pantanal (marshland) with its flood plains teeming with an amazingly rich chain of animal reproduction.
Intersected to the north by the Equator and to the south-east by the Tropic of Capricorn, Brazil covers an area equivalent to 16 Frances, 23 Germanys or 28 Italys. Across this land-mass, almost entirely located in a low altitude inter-tropical zone, average temperatures are mainly above 20 degrees centigrade. For the tourist, this means the all year round opportunity to enjoy one of the hundreds of beaches that are scattered along the 7,400 metres of highly-favoured coastline, with wind systems that are ideal for sailing and activities to suit all tastes: white sandy beaches, beaches with waves that are ideal for surfers, popular city beaches or semi-wild beaches where few have ever stepped. There are no private beaches in Brazil.
Divided into five geographical regions - North, North-East, Centre-West, South and South-East - the country offers widely differing tourist options in each of them. Although they all have one feature in common in the form of Brazil's natural beauty, each one has its own special feature - something that speaks out - to make discovering Brazil an adventure that runs from rivers, valleys and mountains of rare beauty to a colonial past and history that began in the 16th century.
A visit to Brazil's North region, for example, involves getting to know Amazonia, its rivers and forest, The region formed by the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Pará, Roraima, Rondônia and Tocantins offers activities including excursions and fishing whilst staying right in the middle of the forest, as well as visiting cities that flourished in the early 20th century during the rubber production economy - cities such as Manaus in Amazonas. It also offers the opportunity to see a region considered by UNESCO as being Heritage of Mankind: the Serra da Capivara in Pará, with rock paintings that have survived for thousands of years.
It is in the North-East, formed by the states of Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia where the beaches are the most outstanding features and where the sun shines all year round and the sea - including the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago - where diving is a popular activity. The North-East is the location of some of Brazil's oldest cities, such as Salvador in Bahia, founded by the Portuguese colonizers in 1549 and the first seat of Brazilian government; Olinda in Pernambuco, where the government of the Dutchman, Maurice of Nassau left lasting cultural traces; Fortaleza in Ceará where the rafts that slice through the sea are one of the city's landmarks; and São Luís in Maranhão which has a strong Portuguese influence, chiefly in architecture, with tiles prominently adorning many of the registered buildings.
In the Centre-West, formed by the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul is Brasília the federal district and capital of Brazil. Built according to a scheme designed by the town-planner, Lucio Costa and the architect Oscar Niemeyer, Brasília was inaugurated in 1961 and from the urbanistic point of view, is one of the most important planned cities in the world. A visit to the Centre-West is also a visit to a region of great contrast: the old where the bandeirantes or pioneers came rushing during the 17th century, in search of fertile land and gold; and the new where the great economic and demographic surge arrived only with the establishing of the new capital during the second half of the 20th century. It is in the Centre-West where, side by side with a landscape formed by hundreds of caves around cities such as Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul, where flora and fauna flourish in the floods and receding waters of the Pantanal (marshland) and the rivers that rise in Chapada do Guimarães in the Mato Grosso, originate or feed some of the largest hydrographic basins in the entire continent.
Although it contains some of the most beautiful valleys and mountains in Brazil, many of which preserve luxuriant niches of the Atlantic Forest, the main distinguishing feature of the South-East is the splendour of the city of Rio de Janeiro and the cultural and economic life of the other capital cities. Formed by the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais, the region is the financial centre of Brazil and its most industrialized part, responsible for some of the world's largest urban concentrations. The city of São Paulo, for example, has more than 9 million inhabitants - 16 million if account is taken of the group of cities that form the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo which, as in the case of Rio de Janeiro, offer enormous opportunities for the tourist in terms of hotel infrastructure, business, leisure and culture. Also in the South-East are the mining cities, such as Ouro Preto and Congonhas do Campo in the state of Minas Gerais, with the typical urban layout of Brazil's colonial past. The two cities contain works by Aleijadinho, the country's most important sculptor of the baroque period, and registered by UNESCO as Heritage of Mankind.
Formed by the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, the South offers, in addition to some of Brazil's most beautiful beaches, a mountainous landscape which attracted many European immigrants who came and settled in the country in the mid 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. Showing marked signs of German and Italian influence, the region retains the customs of the native lands of those who adopted it and offers in its architecture, cooking and festivals, some of the cultural ties linking it to the cities of origin of its inhabitants. Also in the South is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world: the Iguaçu Falls considered by UNESCO, on account of their natural beauty, as being Heritage of Mankind.
Discovered in 1500, one of the most striking features of Brazil, where the official language is Brazilian Portuguese, is its racial and cultural mix: the Portuguese as first colonizers mingled with the Indians who had lived there for thousands of years, and to these were added the African Negroes who had come there during the period of slavery which was abolished in 1888. Joining all these came immigrants from more than 50 countries to start families in the new motherland. That interbreeding and the variety of features it left in each region is certainly one reason for the friendliness and kindness of the Brazilian people who extend a warm welcome to anyone visiting Brazil. In the past, these people always welcomed immigrants and nowadays it is the tourist who can easily feel at home in this country.
This welcome, combined with the architecture of the period during which it was built - Colonial Brazil (1500-1822), Imperial Brazil (1822-1889) and Republican Brazil (1889 onwards) - comprises the ingredients that make this one of the most attractive countries for tourism. To this may be added the vocation of tourism which is closely linked to nature - from which came the name Terra Papagalis, land of the parrots, by which the country was known on ancient navigation charts, and Brazil itself, being the name of a tree with red timber that was common throughout the coastal area at the time of discovery.
With its vast size and the richness of its natural resources, Brazil contains one of the largest biodiversities in the world. Its diversified climate and landscape present innumerable alternatives for special interest tourism where travellers - and explorers - are not confined to the passive contemplation of nature but make journeys that combine leisure, sport, adventure, culture, study and work, covering the most diverse interests and activities, such as incentive travel, hiking, cruising, mountaineering, observing fauna and flora, photography, deep sea fishing and anthropological research.
As one of the world's most dynamic economies, Brazil is equipped with convention centres providing large areas for exhibitions and a hotel infrastructure to host international events, trade fairs and conferences, such as the Rio-92 Conference, when Rio de Janeiro welcomed 122 heads of state and 170 official delegates, accommodating more than 25,000 participants for two weeks. This activity has been increasing as a result of Brazilian participation in world organizations in areas such as the environment, health and engineering, amongst others.
Brazil is served by the major airlines and its hotel network comprises national companies and some of the world's largest hotel chains. With the ever-increasing flow of tourists, opportunities exist in various sectors both for visitors and those wishing to invest in tourism. There are investment opportunities in water sports and the building of marinas; in the urban area with the construction of hotels, theme parks and others as well as in the building and expansion of leisure resorts or super-hotels. This sector has undergone considerable growth in Brazil.
Despite the great potential for development in the sector, tourism in Brazil has not played a representative part in relation to the world context. In 1995, the entry of foreign tourists into Brazil accounted for only 0.6% of world travel. With the aim of stimulating the private sector and investment in tourism, Embratur, a tourism company linked to the Brazilian Government, set up the Tourist Business Stock Exchange with two basic objectives: the redirecting of investment and the diversification of the main destinations of tourism in Brazil, leading to the rational exploitation of potential in each region.
The Brazilian Government has also supported the development of tourism with financing carried out by means of the Embratur-managed investment funds, either alone or in conjunction with the North-East Development Agency (Sudene) and the Amazônia Development Agency (Sudam). Financial support is given as an average of 40 to 65% of total investment and projects must be approved by Embratur.
For long-term financing, support is given via the credit lines set up by the National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) which finances on a national basis, investment aimed at the improvement and creation of new tourist attractions. There has been investment of US$ 400 million by the Inter-American Development Bank (BID) in Prodetur Nordeste (North-East Region Tourism Development Scheme). Prodetur Sudeste, covering the South-East region, is still being set up. In addition are funds from the Constitutional Fund for Financing the North (FNO), operated by the Bank of Amazônia and directed towards ecological tourism projects in the North region of Brazil.
More on Brazil:
Aparecida do Norte - Sao Paulo
Petropolis - Rio de Janeiro
Balneario Camboriu - Santa Catarina
Sao Francisco do Sul - Santa Catarina
Elis Regina - Brazilian Music
Brazilian Ecotourism - Atlantic Forest and Mountain Regions
Angra dos Reis - Rio de Janeiro
Tourism: Brazil - Business and Leisure