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Euromonitor Interview Series: Q&A with Vinícius Lummertz, President at Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Board

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Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview examining the Brazilian tourism scenario after the 2016 Summer Olympics Games held in Rio de Janeiro last year. Euromonitor International consultant Amanda Bourlier spoke with Vinícius Lummertz, President at Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Board.

Did the results from the 2016 Olympics live up to your expectations?  What, in your opinion, are some of the key achievements from the event?

Absolutely! The games exceeded our expectations in many aspects. Rio 2016 boosted the arrival of 541 thousand international tourists to the country from July 1 to August 15, an increase of 157 thousand people over the same period of 2015. Among key achievements, we could mention the investments in urban infrastructure made by the municipal, state and federal governments that will remain for the population. There were 27 projects for mobility, environment, urban renewal, sports and science, totaling R$ 24.6 billion (5.69 billion Pounds). A research conducted by the Ministry of Tourism could certify that tourists approved our infrastructure investments: airports were praised by 94.6% of tourists and public transport had approval of 86.6%.

What is the government doing to improve the perception that Rio de Janeiro is unsafe for tourists?

The Federal Government approved a Program of Support to the Recovery of Rio de Janeiro, with actions in three fronts: public security, tax recovery and social development. Regarding security, government authorized the use of the Armed Forces in the state, in support of the actions of the National Public Security Plan of Rio de Janeiro, which aims dismantling and reducing the operational capacity of the crime. The federal government's investments in the area of public security have quintupled in the current administration. Last year, there was an increase of more than R$ 2 billion (460 million pounds) in the budget for Public security.

The whole country is working to guarantee a safe environment to tourist who, when choosing the Rio de Janeiro, does so not only for its beauty and tourist attractions, but also for infrastructure and safety. Ensuring this sense of security is the key action of the Public Security Plan for Rio de Janeiro.

What infrastructure projects are underway in Rio and elsewhere to benefit tourists?  What impact will these projects have for locals?

Rio de Janeiro is under constant improvement in its infrastructure.  Recently, the Federal Government announced that the city will receive R$ 652 million (150 million Pounds) in credit for infrastructure works, strengthening the generation of jobs and income. The objective is to leverage the infrastructure, especially in Porto Maravilha, which was created for the 2016 Olympics and englobe an area of ​​5 million square meters. This will attract investments from the private sector in commerce and tourism. There is an extraordinary vocation for the tourism industry in that area, around Guanabara Bay. By increasing tourism, we help to generate social and economic development for locals.

What traveler segments is Rio de Janeiro targeting for growth in 2018 and beyond? 

Trends for the UK in 2018 are honeymoon, family travels, groups or independent travelers seeking outdoor activities, beaches and luxury. The idea is to make customized trips, following specific interests of each traveler. Travels to LGBT tourists are also on the rise. Last year, Rio won the title of best LGBT beach destination in Latin America. The choice was made through 200 representatives and leaders of the LGBT community, organized by the Gay-Lesbian Chamber of Commerce of Argentina.

The infrastructure improvements in Rio also allows business travels to grow. Brazil remained in 1st place among the Latin American countries that received the most events in 2016, according to ICCA (International Association of Congresses and Conventions). Rio de Janeiro is the second Brazilian city that receives the largest number of events. The Euromonitor’s report ‘Top 100 City Destinations Ranking’ itself confirmed that Rio de Janeiro remains the most visited tourist destination in South America in 2017. The city remains the only Brazilian city to join the list of the 100 most wanted destinations on the planet.

An increasing number of destinations globally are struggling with overtourism.  Is the Brazilian government taking any steps to ensure that tourism in Brazil and in Rio specifically grows in a responsible way?

We definitely think about responsible tourism. Some of our cities are award winners in this matter. It is the case of Bonito, located at the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, which was considered the Best Destination for Responsible Tourism in 2013 at the World Responsible Tourism Awards.

Rio follows this path. The Olympic and Paralympic games, for instance, were organized following high standards of responsible tourism. An effort of the Brazilian Federal Government, United Nations and Rio 2016 launched the Green Passport Campaign. The initiative offered suggestions for sustainable tourism routes and services to reduce the impact of travelers on the biomes and communities they visit in Rio de Janeiro. After the games, the idea is to continue working to ensure responsible travels across the country.

When you look ahead to 2018, what do you see as the key factor that will influence tourism performance in Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil as a whole?

For 2018, the Federal Government launched the program "Rio de Janeiro a Janeiro", in partnership with the State Government and the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro, which will enable an annual calendar with about 100 strategic events in the areas of culture, sport, tourism and business. The main objective is to promote the expansion of events that already happen and to stimulate the accomplishment of unpublished events capable of attracting more tourists and investments and, thus, positively affect the generation of employment, income and development in Rio. The program should increase by 20% the flow of tourism, generating R$ 6.1 billion (1.41 billion Pounds) and 170 thousand jobs, the recovery of Rio means the recovery of Brazil as a Nation.

A number of destinations are working to bolster their safety perceptions.  What advice do you have for tourism boards of other locations that may be struggling to balance investing in projects to ensure safety for tourists versus projects that would benefit local residents more directly?

Every situation faced in each country, in every destination, is unique. What we can comment, observing our experience, is that there are two levels of coping with security issues. The first one, which affects us most directly, is to keep the main tourist sites safe for visitors. The second one is the confrontation of the security problem of the population in general, something much more complex and that demands actions and answers that match the challenges of each destination.

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