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A giant among the giants

Rudolf Sárdi
April 15, 2011

Stretching across half of South America, the fascinating land of Brazil has enchanted travelers for over 500 years. Alexandre Vidal Porto who is currently acting as Charge d’Affaire at the Brazilian Embassy in Budapest, shares with Diplomacy and Trade his views on the rise of Brazilian tourism.

Occupying a territory almost as large as the United States, the country offers stunning sights for various tastes: its music, dance and incessant festivities only serve as an add-on to the powdery beaches, tropical islands, astounding wildlife, jungles, culturally bustling metropolises and colonial architecture, all of which have earned the country its unrivalled reputation.

It is refreshing to hear that tourism in Brazil is yet again on the rise. What do you think the energizing force is behind these positive tendencies?

I believe that the main impetus behind the growth in the tourism sector is the 2014 soccer World Cup and subsequent sports events, the Olympic Games and the Paralympics in 2016, to be held in Brazil. Nonetheless, the country’s popularity mainly remains, as it were, attributable to its range of tourist attractions and the ethnic as well as cultural diversity that make up its landscape.
Indeed, one would find oneself at a loss for words in an attempt to capture the very essence of a country that has mostly evoked images of leisurely beach life and multi-colored slums. In addition to safely relying on the upward tendencies in the tourism industry, Brazil has climbed to power as an emerging industrial and economic giant over the past decades. It is no wonder that such an important sports event was selected to take place in Brazil in three years time. Hopes are high that the country’s tourism industry will contribute considerably – 4.5% according to recent estimates – to its gross domestic product.

Brazilians are genuinely passionate and proud whenever their homeland gets mentioned. Now, that the Carnival is over, how does Brazil begin to prepare the groundwork for the World Cup?

The Brazilian government has been aware of the importance of sports events of the magnitude of the two events, and is preparing accordingly. Investments are underway in many infrastructure areas connected to these events, including airports, highways, public transportation, and hotels. Sports arenas are being refurbished and, in some cases, new ones are being built. By 2012, we will be ready to present the world with the best of what Brazil has to offer, both in terms of hospitality and soccer.

Public safety has been a major concern among visitors to Brazil. Do you think the forthcoming events have any bearing on improving statistics in Brazil’s notorious crime rate? In what ways has the situation progressed?

Brazilian cities have grown in the last decades, and this has led many of our major urban centers to experience typical big city problems, including crime. The fact that Rio and Sao Paulo, our two major cities, are considered as Brazil’s postcards to the world only magnifies the violence in these cities. In Rio, for example, the local and federal governments have cracked down on organized crime, which has helped to reduce crime figures. This is due to the intelligence work carried out so far and a new mentality in police training. We are confident that Brazil will be able to present participants with a safe environment for both the World Cup and the Olympic Games, but our main motivation for fighting crime is the long term security of our cities.

Hungary is proud to have been engaged in friendly relations with Brazil for a long time. How did the continuous diplomatic exchange of ideas contribute to the rising popularity of your country?

A recent CNN story has qualified Brazilian as being “the world’s coolest nationality.” This has a lot to do with the way Brazilians face the world and how the country positions itself in the global stage. Brazil is a tropical, peace-loving, sports-enthusiast, environment-conscious country, which is open to new cultures and ideas. The fact that we have used our growing influence to help other developing nations has been an important factor in the positive perception of Brazil. Hungary shares many of these characteristics with Brazil. For example, both our countries share a deep love for culture in all its aspects and a profound respect for the environment. The more Hungarians visit Brazil and vice-versa, the more we can see how our cultures fit together and how much we have to learn from one another. Efforts have been made to increase the tourism flux between our countries. More and more travel agencies include Brazil in their catalogues and brochures, targeting Hungarian travelers. A Brazilian travel workshop in Budapest is planned to take place this autumn and, this March, Havas Creative Tours, one of Brazil’s leading tour operators, participated at the Budapest Travel Fair and revealed plans to organize a familiarization trip for Hungarian travel agents and tour operators. Additionally, the organizers of BRITE, Brazil’s largest event for incoming tourism, will be expecting Hungarian travel trade specialists to participate.

Brazilian Quick Facts

Get there: an incomplete list includes TAP, Turkish Airlines, KLM, Air France and TAM.
Talk: Portuguese (official), English is spoken in touristy areas, Spanish speakers can easily get by.
Pay: Brazilian real (EUR 1 = BRL 2.35)
See and do: visit the famous beaches of Rio with young children juggling soccer balls, the artists’district of Santa Teresa, the annual Carnival, the untouched wilderness of the Amazon rainforest, the breathtaking Iguacu Falls, and a pint of chope (draught beer) on Copacabana beach.

Rudolf Sárdi

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