The statements below were received by the João Saldanha Open Media Centre (OMC) team at the Copacabana Fort in Rio de Janeiro, and are for use in news reporting. Please attribute any quotes to Vinicius Lages, Minister of Tourism.
OMC: Minister, what can be reported about the presence of tourists in the World Cup host cities to date
Minister of Tourism Vinícius Lages: Reports are excellent from the viewpoint of tourists’ experience with Brazilian hospitality. Some problems do appear here and there, but overall, it is highly positive in these first days of the World Cup.
We do not yet have data on tourist arrivals. Our expectation is that the estimates of approximately 600,000 international tourists and around 3 million Brazilians travelling through the country will be confirmed by the end of the tournament. We are conducting a field survey and tracking information on arrivals, so we only have partial figures. But, according to the number of tickets sold to international tourists, we will certainly have those 600,000 tourists.
OMC: What is the impact of the World Cup on the tourism sector in Brazil?
Minister of Tourism Vinícius Lages: The World Cup has an immediate impact in that foreign tourists will spend approximately R$ 6.7 billion in the host cities, not including travelling expenses. We are conducting some surveys and by 17 July we will be able to disclose the results. Therefore, there is a direct impact, both in economic terms and in terms of the country’s image. I believe that Brazil has two very strong assets in its position as an international tourist destination. One of them is natural beauty and the second one is our culture of hospitality. We have a real culture of celebration and good receptiveness - we make people feel at home. This is very important for any tourist destination and we are interested in that. Tourists have to understand that this is a very good country to stay in. Many tourists will also extend their visit after the tournament. The country is enjoying great visibility at the moment, which will help us to strengthen our position on the world´s stage. The crucial thing is that this World Cup has to be followed up with a robust promotional campaign. If we just fold our arms, we will not make good use of the great visibility that the country is enjoying. So the Ministry of Tourism and Embratur are getting ready to launch a campaign aimed at strengthening the positive image the country will have by the end of the World Cup, so that we can increase the number of international visitors to Brazil and also encourage Brazilians to travel more.
OMC: How can the World Cup encourage tourism in other areas of the country, in addition to the 12 host cities?
Minister of Tourism Vinícius Lages: Just to give you an idea, 138 cities hosted visitors during the Confederations Cup. During the World Cup we expect that about 300 cities will be visited. This shows the diversity of the country with its natural and economic assets.
OMC: In view of the results observed in the World Cup, what are your expectations for the Rio 2016 Olympics?
Minister of Tourism Vinícius Lages: We will have to do it even better. We will be inheriting a tested infrastructure. The Olympic Games are not only for Rio de Janeiro, I always insist on that. We will end the World Cup with a well-defined strategy that makes good use of the lessons learned through this tournament, as well as those learned during last year’s Confederations Cup and World Youth Day. No doubt Rio de Janeiro is ready to host events of that magnitude. Carnival is already a gigantic experience. Brazil will be even better prepared and if we do our duty properly, the country will benefit from the tourism industry. We will be making the same efforts to incorporate the diversity that Brazil possesses and making good use of the opportunities that the World Cup has to offer.
OMC: What are the long-term benefits for the country with these major events?
Minister of Tourism Vinícius Lages: Some questions refer to the efforts in terms of public management, such as, for example, coordination of security, equipment, intelligence, and training. This process will become a legacy and Brazil needs to take good care of that. Urban mobility is obviously a question in terms of projecting how large Brazilian cities can improve in the future. Our sports economy can grow a lot, especially if we see the Olympics as an opportunity for Brazil to be seen not only as a football country. This is also the country of basketball; this is the country of the Olympic Games. Sports have to become a dynamic sector within the country´s economy. We have an excellent heritage from the viewpoint of airport facilities, with people travelling more and more and with a country able to receive more people. This is a long-term legacy. Investments were never as strong as they are today in terms of infrastructure, mobility, and all of this has been achieved without affecting investments in areas such as education or health. Quite soon we will be among the most competitive countries in the world.
OMC: In terms of the tourism industry, can the country modify its current standing as a tourist destination with these major events?
Minister of Tourism Vinícius Lages: Certainly. Some new tourist groups that are now visiting Brazil had never before travelled to Brazil. Among them are Mexicans, Australians and also US citizens. We still have to grow a lot in terms of international tourism. We are currently receiving a little less than 6 million foreign tourists per year. That is nothing when compared to our potential. I am of the opinion that we have to improve our logistics, and with the visibility that Brazil enjoys as a good country in terms of a travel destination, a joyful country, a sort of “spa” for the soul, if we improve our logistics and infrastructure – and we are certainly doing that – we will be able to attract new markets. In the case of American visitors, the question involving visas was a challenge. I believe that electronic processing will be extremely helpful in terms of procedure simplification. We have to achieve reciprocity and resolve that issue on visa procedures. We also have to expand our activities in Asian countries, as they are a source of new visitors. Our neighbors´ markets are also highly interesting. If we accomplish the averages achieved by other countries that hosted the World Cup, in the next few years we will experience 5 percent to 10 percent growth in terms of visitors. With all this, we will be able to surpass the mark of 6 million international tourists.