Despite taking a pummeling from COVID-19 and a weak national economy, it could be worse: One thought among those who follow the course of the Brazilian economy and, in particular, its travel and tourism industry, is that the well-worn assessment of “it could be worse” is—believe it or not—an apt description of the situation for Brazil’s outbound tourism industry, especially as it compares to the United States.
Some of the headline numbers are daunting: At the time of this writing, Brazil, the number five overseas source market for inbound tourism in the U.S., with a population 212.5 million, had registered 2.7 million cases of COVID-19, with 93,000 deaths—about 1 out of every 2,285 residents. Only the United States, meanwhile, with a population of 329.9 million, had numbers that were worse: 4.8 million cases, 158,000 deaths, for an average of one fatality for every 2,087 residents.
On the Global charts for COVID-19, the USA is Number One, and Brazil is Number Two. China, interestingly (84,300 cases, 4,600 deaths) is No. 29.
Into the mix of factors that might warrant further pessimism is/was the state of Brazil’s economy. In April, it seemed as if the nation was about to experience another economic recession—just four years after the end of the country’s worst recession (called simply, “La Crise”) that hung around from 2014 into 2016.
But then, on July 22, as reported by Reuters, Brazil’s economic policy secretary, Adolfo Sachsida, speaking during an Exame Research online event, said all the forecasts for a decline in gross domestic product of 6.5 percent or more this year will have to be revised, and the downturn will be much closer to the government’s projected minus-4.7 percent. (The following week, the world learned that the U.S. economy had contracted by a record-breaking 32.9 percent annual rate for the second quarter of 2010.)
At about the same time, the monthly Brazilian Overview put pit by the travel trade publisher PANROTAS and the business publication FecomercioSP showed that the economic were spotty, but not woeful—inflation and interest rates were low for the month of June, and there was a small increase in one consumer confidence measure.
Could international travel resume in October? Also, on July 23, during a virtual panel discussion of steps that the tourism industry should take in order to maintain consumer confidence, José Guilherme Alcorta, CEO of PANROTAS, had a cautious, yet confident response when asked about the issue of when travel by Brazilians will resume. He said, “The perfect time to travel will only come when we have a vaccine. In the meantime, everything will depend on the risk that each one is willing to take. But I believe that the resumption of international travel should start in October.” (Travel from Brazil to the U.S. was banned May 25. On July 29, Brazil reopened international air travel to foreign tourists, which had been banned since March.)