Q: How do you plan to leverage the momentum behind the 2016 Summer Olympics [which took place in Brazil] to increase investment in tourism in Brazil?
A: We have many ways of doing so. One is to offer concessions for the development of Brazilian public parks. We have more than 70 national parks, and we’d like to form partnerships with the private sector enterprises that are interested in the administration of these parks. Tourism operators can take tourists to those parks and build restaurants and hotels with the aim of generating jobs.
Number two, we are creating special areas of tourist interest with their own fiscal and environmental legislation. We want to facilitate international investments in these special areas, such as the construction of resorts, theme parks and other facilities needed for tourism.
We are also working to legalise casinos in Brazil so they can be added at integrated resorts and therefore attract more tourists. With those three ways we believe that Brazil will be able to attract many investors from all over the world, to maximise the Brazilian tourism potential.
Q: Brazil received quite a bit of criticism ahead of the Olympics. With that in mind, do you think the Olympics were ultimately helpful to your tourism brand, or did they cause difficulties?
A: It was extremely positive. Because of all the doubts the world had about Brazil, it was put to the test during the Olympics Games and the World Cup [which the country hosted in 2014], and about 94% of the foreign tourists that went to the Olympic Games said [in surveys] that they would return to Brazil. So the negative image that was created previously was suppressed by the success of the Olympic Games and the World Cup.
Q: Are you seeking investment in infrastructure to boost the tourism sector?
A: The Brazilian government launched a programme to privatise some areas to boost infrastructure, including airports, ports, energy, roads and electricity. This is already taking place. There is a minister now whose responsibility it is to look after this issue, Moreira Franco [executive secretary of the newly formed Investment Partnership Programme] and the headquarters of this agency are in the Palácio do Planalto, the equivalent to the White House in Brazil, which demonstrates the importance of this subject to the country.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest factor holding back Brazil from reaching its full tourism potential?
A: I believe that the previous governments didn’t look at tourism as one of the major economic drivers of our country. As a consequence, they didn’t give enough attention to the business opportunities that tourism has to offer. Many people point at the Olympic Games and the World Cup as high points of Brazilian tourism. But I believe that the Olympic Games were just the beginning, and that Brazil can live a new moment now and make tourism one of the pillars of the economy and generate jobs.
Brazil is prepared to receive tourists from all over the world. And investors want to bet on our country. We have everything needed to become the biggest tourism economy in the world in the very near future.