Brazil here we come, say more HK and mainland holidaymakers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2008, 12:00am

Brazil is becoming an increasingly popular destination among Hong Kong travellers, with the number of visitors rising sharply in the past year.

Luiz Carlos Galindo de Medeiros, deputy consul general at the Brazilian consulate, said an average of one group of about 20 holidaymakers was applying for visas every week, whereas last year this happened once a month.

These numbers were likely to increase, with Brazil expected to provide visa-free entry to SAR passport holders soon, he said.

Brazil is keen to tap the burgeoning Chinese tourism market and attract holidaymakers who stay longer and spend more.

In 2006, only about 36,000 visitors came from the mainland and Hong Kong. No breakdown was available.

Brazil's minister of tourism, Marta Suplicy, has been in Hong Kong promoting the delights of her country.

'The exchange between the two countries is very small,' she said. 'We are so new to tourism. Now, we are more aggressive in getting tourists from around the world.'

Ms Suplicy, who was appointed to the job a year ago, first visited the mainland 30 years ago.

Workshops will be conducted with mainland tour operators in Beijing today and in Shanghai on Thursday to familiarise travel agents with Brazil.

'We have decided to increase our ties with China,' she said. 'Through research, we know now that they don't want to go for sun and beaches but for things like nature, music, gastronomy and birdwatching.'

One challenge is the length of time needed to enjoy a holiday in Brazil or in South America, given that getting there and back takes about two days. Ms Suplicy said a holiday in Brazil needed at least 10 days, and ideally 18 to 20 days.

The number of flights also needed to be increased after the financial collapse of national carrier Varig in 2006 dealt Brazil tourism a severe blow, she said.

Korean Airlines, which suspended flights to Brazil in 2001, will resume services to Sao Paulo on June 3 via Los Angeles.

Brazil is also capitalising on its global reach of sport, especially soccer. It will host the World Cup in 2014.