NEW YORK -- Brazilian officials estimate that its new eVisa program will boost tourism from the U.S. by at least 25% and possibly as much as 50%. 

Brazil introduced its electronic visa program in the fall, making it cheaper and easier for citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. to travel to Brazil.

The program enables tourists to apply online with an estimated approval time of 72 hours. They are no longer required to visit a Brazilian consulate or visa center. For Americans, the visa price dropped from $160 to $40.

Brazil minister of tourism Marx Beltrao said at an event in New York promoting the eVisa that the ministry originally estimated a 25% increase, but now thinks it might be closer to 50%. He said that Brazil issued 2,400 visas to Australians last month, a 30% increase from a year earlier.

Talking about the huge untapped potential for Brazilian tourism, Beltrao said that only 0.7% of American tourists go to Brazil, totaling around 570,000 last year, leaving "a lot of room for an increase." 

"We will do whatever it takes to foster foreign tourism in Brazil," Beltrao said. "Any American who wants to come to our country will find it a lot easier to do so. We are rolling out the red carpet."

Beltrao is not the only travel bigwig anticipating such lofty numbers. U.S. Tour Operators Association chief Terry Dale, also at the event, predicted that the number of Americans traveling to Brazil has the potential to double over the next decade thanks to the new eVisa program.

"This is a happy moment for all of us in Brazil," said Vinicius Lummertz, head of Brazilian tourist board Embratur. "We have achieved a status that we fought for -- tearing down one of the bureaucracies that keeps our countries apart."

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