FORTALEZA, Brazil -- During the past 10 years, the state of Ceara
has become one of Brazil's fastest-growing regions with a GNP that
has increased two times faster than that of the country as a whole.
Now, the government aims to make tourism the state's No. 1
industry. Domestic arrivals have increased by 70% in the past four
years, and the goal is to achieve a similar status at the
Situated where the country's eastern coast juts farthest into
the Atlantic, Ceara's capital, Fortaleza, is determined to become
the new gateway to Brazil. It is, in fact, the South American
metropolitan city closest to the U.S.
Aiming to take advantage of geography, Ceara's government and
its tourism minster, Anya Ribeiro, have set about transforming
Fortaleza's infrastructure. Through 1999, Ceara has spent $10
billion toward this end, with another $4 billion slated for the
next two years.
In 1998, an international airport opened, an $86 million
investment. With an annual capacity of 3 million passengers, it is
designed to handle the mega aircraft of the future.
Varig Airlines now operates weekly nonstop service between Miami
and Fortaleza, a six-and-a-half-hour flight.
Inaugurated in 1998, Fortaleza's art and cultural center is a
$30 million complex housing museums, a planetarium and theaters.
Fortaleza's sightseeing options are pleasant, though not
The Jose de Alencar Theater, constructed of Scottish wrought
iron, was built in 1910 and restored in 1991. The interior's ornate
iron balconies and rows of wood and woven cane chairs suit the
city's tropical ambience.
Rambling about the cobbled, pedestrian-only streets of the old
section, travelers can admire some impressive turn-of-the-century
buildings, an 18th century fortress and old world pharmacies and
Ceara is known for handicrafts and the Ceara Handicraft Center
(Ceart) displays and sells everything from wicker furniture to
macrame hammocks, lace, needlepoint and straw baskets. Here,
clients can watch artisans create intricate scenes with colored
sand packed tightly into small bottles.
A jail, dating to 1824, doubles as a crafts center and regional
museum, while every evening, more than 150 vendors set up stalls
along the beach, offering cashews, crafts and other souvenirs.
Restaurants abound, as do spots for dancing the samba. In fact,
Fortaleza partying manifests itself in a different theme, complete
with food, music and an "in" location, for each night of the
Cumbuco, 12 miles west of Fortaleza, offers crystal-clear
waters, dunes towering up to 80 feet, lagoons and water sports.
Other popular beaches such as Canoa Quebrada and Jericoacoara can
be reached by chartered helicopter, prop plane or drives of two and
seven hours, respectively.
Each beach offers comfortable pousadas, averaging $35 per room
including breakfast. To introduce this product to the marketplace,
the tour operator Brazil Nuts, in conjunction with Varig Airlines,
has created a number of attractively priced packages with
seven-night Fortaleza and beach combinations starting at $888,
including roundtrip air from Miami.
Clients could opt to combine Ceara with other Brazilian
destinations such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador or Manaus
and the Amazon. Varig has frequent service between these points and
Clients might consider the carrier's domestic passes, which
offer multiple flights within 21 days for $290 to $540, depending
on the number of coupons selected and season.
Ceara's tourism ministry, Varig and Brazil Nuts have launched a
major U.S. promotion complete with a dedicated phone line to assist
agents with information and reservations. A number of
familiarization trips are planned to introduce the trade.
For details, contact the Ceara Tourist Center, based in Naples,
Fla., at (877) 412-3272.
E-mail: [email protected]
Brazil Nuts: (800) 553-9959 or (941) 593-0266