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Vets and Novices, Local and Foreign: Tech Stands to Benefit from Brazil’s Tourism Boom

Brazil is lined up to become Latin America’s leading international tourist destination over the next decade. The country will play host to several global events, including the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, which will attract thousands upon thousands of spectators. And beyond those events, the buzz the country has generated as of late, alongside its beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan cities, will certainly convince more than a few vacation-goers to make Brazil their next destination.

In infrastructure and policy, Brazil has been making important strides in preparation for the influx of tourism expected over the coming years. Efforts are also being turned towards technology, where government agencies, entrepreneurs and investors are eager to get involved.

Government Leads the Way

Brazilian authorities and official organizations are leading the way in developing the country’s tourism industry, technology included. In July, the Brazil launched a new global tourism campaign, The World Meets in Brazil. Come Celebrate Life. Minister of Tourism Gastao Viera announced goals for Brazil to earn a place among the top three tourism powers in the world by 2022 (interestingly, the country has also named the same year to reach the top three in technology). Furthermore, the Brazilian Hospitality Group revealed plans this week to launch a private equity fund for hospitality-related greenfield projects. Worth US$74 million initially, BHG hopes to increase that number to US$200 million via third-party investments.

Country leaders are not at all lost on the importance of technology in all of this – after all, they recently dedicated US$250 million to the cause. Earlier this year, the Brazilian Tourism Board announced an interactive app for tourists, Brasil Quest, as well the Brazil Brand Channel website. And considering what’s to come, that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, the government is not the only entity getting involved. The private sector will take advantage of the country’s tourism explosion over the years to come, with organizations from Brazil and abroad looking to get in on the action.

For the Private Sector, a Land of Opportunities

In terms of air travel, American Airlines has been making moves in Brazil with Direct Connect. Though Direct Connect was initially aimed at the corporate market in Brazil, it has since taken off in the leisure sector, having linked with Brazilian travel technology companies Wooba and ArgoIT. Other tourism businesses have begun to use the service as well.

Another major player in the hospitality sector to take note of Brazil’s promise is Airbnb, which set up shop in the country in April of this year. As of July, the company had already booked 90,000 nights in Brazil. Airbnb, along with other hospitality organizations, will surely experience a boom of travelers over the years to come. Airbnb Communications Manager Jakob Kerr gave us some insight on what else we may be able to expect:

We believe that the tourism market has a very close bond to the sharing economy dynamics, since its concept is about connecting people, different cultures and social experiences. For that, not only hospitality, but other parts related to global infrastructure demands, such as transportation and mobile communication, should attract increasingly more innovations to provide better and integrated services to people. For example, initiatives such as sharing car rides to reduce traffic jams and pollution and development of new technologies facilitating the social communication among common users, are some of the trends that are going to boost in terms of relevance and diversity of alternatives throughout the world.

In consideration of Kerr’s observations, it is likely that many of the startup and technology trends we’ve witnessed as of late are directly or indirectly related to the impending tourism boom in Brazil. Take, for example, Nokia Siemens, which recently announced the opening of an assembly line for 4G technology in Brazil. The corporation will help local carriers to prepare for the 2014 World Cup. Or have a look at traffic applications like Wabbers, or local business platforms such as Locamob. Both stand to benefit from tourism industry growth in the years to come if they’re able to make a few adjustments.

Likewise, applications and platforms tied directly to the travel industry will also likely explode. Just in Time Tourist, from Portugal-based iClio, recently participated in AppCircus São Paulo and aims to become a leading tool for tourists in Brazil. The application is a guide for independent tourism, fueled by historians and experts, and already proved quite successful during the London Olympic Games. Alexandre Pinto of iClio commented on expectations for the Brazilian travel market:

Tourism technology in Brazil is a huge universe of opportunities. We can’t focus our attention on everything, so we focus on the opportunities with museums, city audio guides, resorts, cultural events and prime and innovative applications that include production of serious games. Anyone can produce applications, so we do not seek the monopoly in apps production. We only focus on those apps and partners that have the goal of creating the best mobile content.

Numbers Promising, but No Slam Dunk

As time goes on and more opportunities arise, players old and new, local and foreign will continue to get involved. Especially when considering that the numbers are quite promising.

In 2011, companies within the Brazilian tourism sector experienced, on average, 18.3% growth. Inbound tourism fared the best, expanding at a rate of 33.5%, followed by hospitality (22.2%), travel agencies (19.5%) and air transport (18.2%). Such trends are sure to continue, as financing for the tourism industry is up 38% for 2012.

Brazil’s tourism industry will certainly receive a big boost from the upcoming World Cup and Olympics; however, it will have to depend on much more than that to really flourish. With reports now indicating that London actually experienced a tourism slump during the Olympic Games, this fact is more important now than ever. Kerr touched on the issue:

The opportunities and challenges will keep up for sure. Of course, World Cup and Olympics will draw a lot of attention and focus on the upcoming years, but there are other relevant events going on in the meantime involving other industries and themes. For example, the event Rio+20, which occurred in June, have had some hospitality issues with the lack of beds to attend the visitors. This was a huge deal and it didn’t involve World Cup or Olympics. In addition, Brazil has some of the greatest events of the world and is also a notable tourism destiny, so there will be plenty of work from tech enterprises to do. And this includes making a real difference in people’s lives, improving their experiences and communication through high technology in a creative and sustainable way.

This in mind, entrepreneurs will have to look beyond the obvious answers to truly leverage all that Brazil’s growing travel industry has to offer.

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