“Who could have imagined a year like this?” José Guilherme Alcorta, CEO of the Brazilian travel trade publisher and event producer, PANROTAS, asked rhetorically in a message accompanying last week’s delivery of the latest Brazilian Overview Monthly Report published jointly by PANROTAS—the Brazilian trade media and event company—and FecomercioSP, the São Paulo-based business and economic research organization.
“And here we are, in December of 2020,” Alcorta added. “Our industry has been through a challenging and defying period, which served once more to emphasize the power of all travel professionals—each one of us who helps building this sector every day. Each one of us that have been dedicating our lives and our careers to a better travel and tourism industry and who can be defined as resilient, passionate, adaptable and persevering.”
“Resilient, passionate, adaptable and persevering?” Powerful words, but unsurprising to anyone who’s followed the course of the travel and tourism industry in Brazil over the past decade or so. They sound very much like the components of the qualities of “jogo de cintura”—peculiar to the country’s national character. The Cambridge Dictionary describes the Brazilian Portuguese expression jogo do cintura as: “clever or skilful/skillful actions to achieve something or deal with a problem.”
A Second Recession: This year, 2020, could well be described as one in which the Brazilian travel and tourism industry’s jogo de cintura has been on display. Entering the year, the nation was experiencing a still-fragile recovery from its worst economic recession ever (from the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2017—so severe that it was referred to simply as “La Crise,” or “The Crisis”) when it fell into yet another recession when its economy contracted in both Q1 and Q2. This coincided with the explosion of the COVID-19 crisis. (As of this writing, Brazil ranks second, behind only the United States, in the number of COVID-19 deaths.)
Despite all of the above, the November issue of the Brazilian Overview Monthly Report was able to point to some encouraging developments for the nation’s economy and for the travel and tourism industry in particular—a testimonial, in part to the Brazilian jogo de cintura:
—GDP growth in Q3 was 9.47 percent compared to Q2 and, consequently, taking the country out of the technical recession.
—Emergency government assistance from the Brazilian government has already benefited 67 million people with total of $33 billion expended by October.
—According to a study by Fecomercio-SP, e-commerce in the state of São Paulo grew six years in six months amid the pandemic.
—The Consumer Confidence Index (ICC) registered a slight decrease of 0.7 percent in October, but has 107.6 points, a level considered optimistic.
—The Retail Businessmen Confidence Index (ICEC) had the fourth consecutive increase and reached 96 points in October, the highest score since April.
Travel & Tourism Industry Notes:
—There is great expectation for the high summer season, between December and March, (Summer in the southern hemisphere summer is December through March) which, the Overview says, promises to fill hotels and resorts.”
—CVC, the largest travel company in Brazil (as well as the nation’s tourism sector generally) are benefiting from the decision by the company, just as La Crise was winding down, to add 100 new travel agencies annually in the country—focusing on rural and less populated areas—has increased interest and demand in the target areas. While CVC fell short of its initial goal, it still has nearly 1,300 agencies across the country. And the move was illustrative of what one might describe as a result of “jogo de cintura.”
—The CVC move has helped to stimulate demand, especially for domestic product, and the country’s major carriers—Gol, Azul and LATAM—anticipate operating between 60 to 80 percent of their domestic networks this summer.
—On the international market, Brazil has not generated any significant traffic to the United States, although there are a handful of flights by LATAM operating. At the same time, more than 100 countries are open to traffic from Brazil. (Compare this to Germany, which has a little more than 40 international destinations open to flights.)
—Overall, demand for all product is encouraging, and Q3 product improved over Q2, but is still well below pre-pandemic levels. Operators, too, reported that, while there was activity in Q3, sales were well below what they were prior to the pandemic.
—Of interest is a brief note in the Overview that “national charters are being seen as one of the ‘in-things’ of the summer, but there is no forecast and charters for international flights.”
—In sum, as 2020 is ending, the tourism industry is not where it wants to be, but, thankfully, it is not where it was when the year began.