NEW YORK -- After ending visa requirements for Americans last year, Brazil is touting its ecological attractions, gastronomy and more in 2020, as it seeks to attract more travelers from the U.S. and elsewhere.

The president of Embratur, the country’s tourism board, was in New York to discuss Brazil’s promotional strategy as well as efforts to attract new tourism investment, from airlines to cruise lines to casinos.

With an open-skies agreement between the U.S. and Brazil in effect since 2018, attracting new airlift remains a priority.

“We are seeking a direct flight from the East Coast of the U.S. to the northeast of Brazil,” said Embratur president Gilson Machado Neto. “We don’t have any flights from New York to Recife or Fortaleza.”

Brazil’s tourism interests are also engaged in early discussions with casino developers, as the country’s legislature has yet to legalize casino gambling

Embratur representatives presented a minute-long video contrasting well-known aspects of the country’s tourism product, such as its beaches and Carnaval celebration, with its technological achievements and inviting travelers to “Visit and Love Us,” as its tagline states.

Although final visitor numbers for 2019 are not yet available, Machado Neto said he expected arrivals would be slightly up despite the negative impact that reports on fires in the Amazon had on tourism.

“The Amazon did not burn, as the big media said,” Machado Neto said. He also decried French President Emmanuel Macron’s tweet about the fire in August  as “fake news,” saying that Brazil had fewer fires last year than at any time over the past decade.

Having a positive impact on tourism numbers was Brazil’s introduction in mid-June of visa-free travel for visitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan. Tickets issued to U.S. travelers for Brazil travel rose 39% in the first six months after Brazil lifted visa requirements, according to Machado Neto. 

Machado Neto said that the country of nearly 210 million people has the potential to increase those numbers even more.

With about 6 million tourists visiting Brazil annually, “It’s less than the elevator of the Eiffel Tower,” Machado Neto said.

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