March 29, 2011 at 16:15 PM EDT
New York tourism bureau woos Brazilians
Lisa Fickenscher - The city's tourism bureau announced a travel program Tuesday aimed at enticing Brazilians to visit the Big Apple. Brazil is the sixth largest international feeder market to the city—as well as the largest in South America—and already supplies robust numbers of tourists to New York. Last year, a record 423,000 visitors from Brazil came here. The travel incentives include a discounted roundtrip fare offered by American Airlines of $1,099 between New York City and Sao Paulo. The fare, which represents about a 20% discount, is only good for travel between now and Sept. 30 and must be booked before April 8. The city's NYC & Co. has offered similar deals with its tourism counterparts in Madrid and London as well as to bureaus in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. “We were very surprised by how successful we were,” said George Fertitta, chief executive of NYC & Co. The number of visitors from Madrid, for example, increased from 35,000 to 45,000 in 2009 over the previous year from just one tour operator, Mr. Fertitta said. A new marketing program is also in the works to boost travel from the United Kingdom, which is the city's largest international market but has declined recently because of the weak economy there. In Brazil, NYC & Co. is launching a $4.5 million media campaign promoting the city via the outdoor advertising firm Cemusa—which has a partnership with New York City. The U.S. is the No. 1 market for Brazil. Nearly 2 million Brazilians traveled to the U.S. last year, a 34% increase from 2009. In fact, Brazilians are such avid travelers that President Dilma Rousseff just increased a tax on what they buy abroad. Their overseas spending has hurt merchants and businesses in Brazil, who say they are losing sales. At issue is Brazil's strong currency, the strongest in decades. The current exchange rate is 1.65 reais to the dollar. Even more Brazilians would likely come to the U.S. if Brazil participated in the Visa waiver program that allows visitors from 36 countries to travel here without obtaining a non-immigrant visitor visa. The U.S. Travel Association has asked the White House to include Brazil in the program. Mr. Fertitta said it will take another three years before Brazil is approved for Visa waiver status. In the meantime, he added, the U.S. Consulate in Brazil wants to increase the number of visas it approves from the current 2,300 a day to 4,000 within the next year or two. “There is pent up demand to come here,” he said.
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