As it prepares to host the world's two largest sporting events over the next four years, Brazil hopes to more than double its tourist arrivals by 2020.
The world's fifth-largest country is spending $40 million on a global advertising campaign tied to the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Summer Olympics, both taking place in Brazil. The events are expected to bring more than 600,000 and 300,000 visitors to Brazil, respectively.
Marcelo Pedroso, director of international markets for Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Board, said during a visit to New York that the country hopes the publicity from the two events, along with the tandem marketing campaign, will broaden Brazil's image from that of "a country with [soccer] and samba."
"We can go further and show more about Brazil's diversity of nature, culture and modernity," Pedroso said. "That's our desire and why we are launching this campaign."
Embratur launched the campaign in August in London, at the end of the Summer Olympic Games there, when the torch was passed to Rio de Janeiro.
As part of the campaign, 100 taxis, 500 bus stops and six double-decker buses in London were plastered with Brazil's new tourism slogan: "Come to Celebrate Life."
Embratur simultaneously launched the ad campaign internationally, both online and on major TV channels such as CNN, Bloomberg TV and the History Channel.
The tourism board's goals are ambitious. It wants to increase revenue from international tourism to $18 billion by 2020 from $5.9 billion in 2010. During the same period, it hopes to see visitors from the U.S. double to 1.5 million from 700,000 annually, and from other international destinations to 10 million from 5 million.
Brazil also hopes to grow the number of leisure travelers from the U.S. Currently, most of the North Americans who go to Brazil travel for business.
Aware that some nations suffer a post-Olympic tourism letdown, Pedroso said Brazil's investment is positioning the country to not only escape that fate, but to contradict it.
He noted that Barcelona increased tourists before and after the Olympics and was able to increase its share of leisure tourists.
"It depends on the way you showcase the destination," he said.
The first part of Embratur's strategy was to seize the moment when international media attention shifted from London to the Rio Olympics.
The campaign focuses on five key segments of tourism: sun and beach, ecotourism, culture, sports and business and events.
It seeks to persuade tourists to venture beyond Sao Paulo and Rio, to the northeast, central and southwest parts of the country, where there are preserved colonial-era towns, areas influenced by settlers of Italian, Portuguese and German descent. Pedroso hopes tourists think of Brazil when it comes to adventure travel as much as soccer, and to think cultural beyond Carnival.
Besides promoting its vast nation, Embratur must contend with Brazil's long-held reputation for not being safe.
Critics contend that the country's crime, specifically in Rio's slums, or favelas, and insufficient infrastructure will make hosting two mega-events a challenge.
To the contrary, Pedroso said, playing host to the World Cup and Olympics events has given Brazil the opportunity to improve tourism infrastructure around the country, from general transportation to hotel renovations, improvements in restaurants and training programs for hospitality workers.
The World Cup, with 12 host cities, will be a much bigger undertaking than the Olympics, which is based only in Rio.
Rio has for years been engaged in a major program aimed at reducing the gang-related violence that has plagued the city. In a survey Embratur released in July of about 228 foreign tourists in Rio for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, 72% said that security was either "good" or "very good" in the city.
Traffic didn't fare as well, with 81% rating traffic in the city as "poor" or "very poor." Rio is working to alleviate that and is building a new Metro line in Rio that will be ready for the Olympics. The entire country is improving its English-language signage.
Another way that Embratur believes Brazil could increase its share of travelers from the U.S. is if the country waives its current policy requiring Americans to secure a visa. Brazil does this because the U.S. requires visiting Brazilians to obtain a visa. Pedroso said that he believes the visa requirement for Americans could be eliminated by the time the World Cup starts.
Embratur is hoping that travel agents will also play a major role in increasing tourism from North America to Brazil.
The organization held a series of workshops over the last year, both in the U.S. and abroad, to educate agents about Brazil.
Last month, Embratur hosted workshops in Miami, Dallas and New York, focusing on Brazil's cultural attributes.
"Through these interactive sessions, Embratur hopes to show how travelers can see the many sides of Brazil in a one-trip itinerary," said Marco Lomanto, director of products and destinations for Embratur. "From exploring the African-influenced culture of Bahia and the majesty of 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics host city Rio de Janeiro to discovering the beauty and mysteries of the Amazon."
Embratur plans to increase such events as Brazil gets closer to the World Cup and Olympics.
Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.