Even with the global financial crisis, which has affected the economic development of countries around the world as a whole, the tourism sector has been a development vector of economies, and this set the tone for the opening of World Travel Market Latin America being held in Brazil. Just in Latin American countries, the number of arrivals grew by nearly 50%, from 54 million in 2003 to the 80 million forecast for this year.
“For the first time we decided to come to the continent because of numbers like this and because of the leading role that Brazil will have in the sector over the next few years,” said Andrew Fowles, CEO of Reed Exhibitions, during the opening ceremony of the event, held today in Sao Paulo, at the Transamerica Expo Center, which was packed. This English company promotes World Travel Market London, the leading global event for the travel industry, a fair that has been taking place for 34 years and that last year alone, did over £ 1.8 billion in business.
Marco Ferraz, President of the Brazilian Association of Tour Operators (Braztoa), stated that the sector is growing so much that he compared the first edition of the entity’s Commercial Meeting with the current one, which is its 39th. “We started in a very modest way and this time, in partnership with WTM Latin America, we recorded a record of 8,000 sq.m. sold, in addition to making excellent contacts and doing good business.”
Despite the continental tone, the star of WTM Latin America undoubtedly is Brazil. With four world events scheduled for the next three years, the eyes of the world tourism market are turned towards the country. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” acknowledged the Minister of Tourism, Gastao Vieira, who attended the opening of the fair. “Our numbers are still small if we take into consideration all the Brazilian potential,” he said, remembering that the number of international departures reached some 9.2 million in 2012, an historic record.
Last year, too, even with the worsening of the European crisis and the whole process of internal restructuring in the countries that took part in the Arab Spring, the world, for the first time in history, exceeded the figure of 1 billion international arrivals. “This shows we’re traveling more and that’s why in 2012 the G20 classified tourism as a sector vital for economic development and job creation,” said Executive Director of the United Nations World Organization, Marcio Favilla. “The tourism sector is growing in a healthy way and helping various countries develop,” he says.
Greater proof of this is perhaps the sheer size of the World Travel Market in its first edition in Latin America. Altogether, more than 1,200 exhibitors are exhibiting in the Transamerica Expo Center until next Thursday, April 25, in an attempt to do business with the thousands of visitors who are likely to come from all countries on the continent. For the first time, countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, which traditionally invest in attracting European and North American countries, are directing their efforts at Brazil. There are 44 countries exhibiting in total, in addition to several U.S. states. All there to take advantage of the Brazilian tourists, who last year spent more than US$22 billion abroad.
If it is left up to Constanze Hilgers, Destination Director of the German National Tourism Office, they will have strong competition. “Our goal is to become the first choice for Brazilians in Europe,” she says. Hilgers is also betting on the fact that this being the Year of Germany in Brazil to lure Brazilians to visit the land of beer more frequently. “Now we have another thing in common, besides football: a passion for traveling,” says the person who considers WTM Latin America to be the perfect occasion for kicking off the Year of Germany in Brazil.
Part of the encompassing program of events, which attracted hundreds of spectators, one of the highlights was the talk entitled “Social media and the legacy of the World Cup and the Olympics for tourism,” delivered by Mark Frary, William Bakker and Martine Ainsworth-Wells.
With a video showing the opening of the London Olympic Games, made famous because it showed the Queen of England parachuting [out of a helicopter] with actor Daniel Craig, who played James Bond in the latest movies in the series, Mark Frary highlighted the importance of the role of social networks in an event of major proportions. “This video will be seen a lot more times yet, as well as similar work that may be done in the next Games. It’s up to Brazil to take care of this now,” Frary stated.
WTO ROUNDTABLE LOOKS AT MULTI-DESTINATION PACKAGES
In addition to marking its presence at the opening ceremony of the WTM Latin America, in the person of its Director, Marcio Favilla, the World Tourism Organization, the official United Nations body, made an important contribution to the event by organizing a roundtable with some of the most important names in the industry.
The main subject discussed was increasing the supply of multi-destination packages to Latin America compared with international markets, such as North America and Europe, as a way of promoting the tourism market and attracting travelers to the region. One of the conclusions reached is that for this to be possible, some barriers have to be eliminated. “It’s very common for Brazilians when traveling to Europe to get to know several countries all in one trip,” says Marco Ferraz, President of Braztoa. Here, however, the market comes up against resistance, linked largely to the bureaucratic processes for crossing the country’s border and poor air and ground connectivity; the latter includes the price and high charges for transportation and other services. “The cost of activities and services linked to leisure in the Caribbean, for example, is up to 60% cheaper than in Brazil,” points out Roberto Rotter, President of the Hotel Operators Forum of Brazil (FOHB).
To minimize the negative impact on the sector, Braztoa declared that it is against the visa requirements for foreigners in the country. “There’s no reason to maintain this bureaucracy for tourism between nations that have good diplomatic relationships,” argues Ferraz, President of the organization. Therefore, market expectation is that the airplanes that carry an increasing number of Brazilians abroad will also bring more foreigners to Brazil, thus confirming that national tourism is forging the path that will lead it to its maturity.
Another highlight of the program of the WTM Latin America and the 39th Braztoa Commercial Meeting was the Braztoa Leisure Tourism Forum, which was divided into two seminars.
The first brought together representatives from different segments of the trade to discuss new ways of selling travel packages: wholesale, online, direct sales and corporate. One of the speakers was Rui Alves, a partner of Gapnet, who created considerable controversy when he criticized competition between market players. “I don’t see Ford changing the price of its products to attack other vehicle makers, for example,” he said, drawing an analogy. “Even so, the forecast is that demand will keep on rising for packages. We expect 200 million in sales by 2020. Currently, the figure is 100 million,” he added.
WTM Latin America will continue until Thursday, with more business rounds, exhibitions, and seminars. More information can be found at www.wtmlatinamerica.com .
To watch the highlights of the first day at WTM Latin America please go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxE9n8t77Jo&feature=youtu.be