One of the foremost receptive tour operators in the USA in dealing with the inbound market from Brazil, Eduardo Bittencourt, seems to counsel U.S. travel suppliers to take a deep breath, consider the total political, social and cultural environment of the world’s seventh largest nation and third largest overseas travel market, and don’t be rigid by looking only at the nation’s GDP and currency exchange rate.
Bittencourt, managing director of Orlando-based CH Travel, which specializes in MICE travel from Brazil, told delegates not to give up on the market, which has generated increasingly larger numbers of visitors to the USA for more than a decade before flattening out this year.
“Is it really time to give up on Brazil?” he asked rhetorically, answering his own question with: “I don’t think so.” Some key data that support his position include the fact that, in a nation of more than 200 million people, just seven percent of the nation has traveled internationally and, among all Brazilians, the USA—specifically, Florida—is the “number one dream destinations” for all Brazilians.”
Currently, he explained, Brazilian’s international travelers to the United States are not traveling as many days or spending as much, particularly on shopping, when they travel. “They’re still traveling, but they’re thinking about the return,” said Bittencourt. “They are now saving money to pay cash.”
He added: “We are receiving a different passenger—one more interesting in discovering what a destination has to offer—not just shopping. They’re still shopping, but they are buying less. We don’t see so many shopping bags in the (airline) bins.”
So, he emphasized. Brazilians are still traveling.
So, what should U.S. suppliers do—despite the fact that the Brazil is in the midst of a recession and its currency, the Brazilian real, is down 25 percent vs. last year? Key actions he suggested include the following:
—Understand the Brazilian culture. Don’t prepare proposals simply on the basis of performance data or statistical projects at a formal meeting. “You’ll do more business at a dinner or lunch.”
— For the time being, consider relaxing the date for payment deadlines for your product or package. Instead of calling for payment six months out, “Why four or three?”
—Hoteliers can offset the impact of the price of a room by providing free Wi-Fi aces and including a complimentary breakfast.
—One sign that a turnaround might be in the offing (possibly in 2016) is that airlines have dropped fares to the USA. This is related, in part, to a recent tendency on the part of upscale travelers (those in Brazil’s “A” and “B” economic classes) to make their purchases closer to their date of departure. These passengers are also booking more travel on their own.
In essence, Bittencourt concluded, what decline in the market there has been is not due to economic factors, but to political factors, the latter having shaken the confidence of some Brazilians who travel internationally—especially the country’s “C” economic class, many of who have now taken to traveling within Brazil or to in-close South American destinations.
Jay Santos, vice president of global travel industry sales and marketing at Visit Orlando, pointed out that, in the past several years, Orlando had made a strategic decision to focus more on “A” and “B” class Brazilians—individuals who would be less prone to forego long-haul travel to the United States because of economic conditions at home.
Even so, said Santos, travel suppliers in the greater Orlando area have noticed changes in the behavior of Brazilian visitors:
—“They’re traveling, but they’re spending less.
—“They’re doing things other than shopping,” such as enjoying local parks .
—They’re visiting for less than 12- or 10-day actions, staying for 7 days instead.