Brazil Loves Orlando… But The Brits Not So Much!

Filed under: Florida News,Orlando News |

The Orlando Sentinel has just released an article talking about Brazilian travel to Orlando in 2012. The article talks about the continued growth in the market and the stats just released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.

According to the international visitor statistics about 639,000 Brazilians traveled to Orlando in 2012. A far higher figure than the 450,000 to 500,000 visitors a year that some Orlando’s tourism promoters had previously estimated. The sharp increase in the head count of Brazilians contributed to a big jump in the number of visitors from South America last year where the Commerce Department put that figure at nearly 1.3 million, an increase of 45.5 percent from a year earlier.

Canada remained the Orlando area’s top international market, with nearly 1.1 million visitors, according to Visit Orlando estimates. The United Kingdom remained in second place but their total fell 4.8 percent to just 730,000 travelers. Overall, the number of international travelers of all kinds in Orlando last year was up 12.3 percent compared with 2011.

International visitors are particularly coveted by the tourism industry and that’s because travelers from overseas tend to stay longer and spend more while in Orlando. On average, nine days and $1,115 a person per trip in 2011 — compared with 2.7 days and $482 for domestic travelers.

So that’s some good news and some bad news. It’s exciting that more and more South Americans are exploring and finding out about Central Florida but it’s also disappointing that nearly 400,000 less Brits a year now visit than they used to. Obviously there’s all kinds of reasons for this but from the complaints I’ve heard, top of the list are two major factors; immigration and the cost of flights.

Immigration is always a pain in the neck and Orlando has been particularly uncertain for a long time. After a long flight of nine to ten hours no-one wants to line up for 2 hours plus to get through immigration and customs and then have the hassle of lining up again for a rental car or other transport. Over the last year I’ve heard that some guests have even had longer than two hour waits while just recently that has improved to less than an hour. Even so, that still isn’t great and it’s not good enough for a place that prides itself on being the tourist capital of the world. We have to improve.The uncertainty of what is going to greet you at the other end is enough to prevent a lot of people visiting Florida.

Now to the cost, it seems that flight prices from the UK have risen and risen and risen. Not only are there more and more Government taxes on flights in the UK now but the airlines have got greedier and greedier. Service has generally been downsized while flight prices grow out of control. The hard evidence is that far fewer people are traveling to Orlando and that means the number of flights have been cut back so demand for the flights that do remain is more. That might be good business for the airlines in the short term but if they really want to kill the golden goose, then this is as good way as any.

Personally, I hate flying anywhere. Being over 6 feet tall makes it a bloody miserable experience anyway but I refuse to pay those exorbitant prices to upgrade to a seat with 3 inches more leg room. I’ll not even talk about the whole airport experience of security, food, beverage and baggage. It’s all rather something to avoid and the Brits are voting by the masses that they aren’t partaking.

So that’s the bad news but let’s focus on the good. There’s no doubt Brazilians love Central Florida. We house them in our own Florida Leisure vacation homes and we’re more than happy to do so. Apart from visiting our world class theme parks, these folks love to shop. Boy, do they love to shop! I’ve no idea how much the average Brazilian spends on clothing and apparel while here but I’d love to know that number at some stage in the future! I’d also like to find some bigger trash cans to take all the boxes and bags they leave behind from their shopping expeditions!

I dare say that the market will continue to grow in Orlando, particularly if the areas soccer team, Orlando City, manages to attain MLS status in the next few months. Just this Summer, Brazilian Champions Fluminense were in town to play an international match against the Lions and with one of their own, Flavio Augusto da Silva (pictured above), investing in the team, it’s sure to create a whole lot more interest.

There’s no sign of this Brazilian invasion slowing down according to the U.S. Commerce Department as they project over 1.5 million Brazilians will visit the United States in 2014 and most of them will be heading to Florida. Here in Orlando, we are used to seeing Brazilian tour groups marching through outlet malls and theme parks, so I guess that trend is something we’re all going to have to get used to as they get ready to clear the shelves at the name-brand outlets. Having spoken to some of our guests, it’s really quite remarkable how they view even regular priced goods in Florida as being a whole lot cheaper than in Brazil, where tariffs, taxes and transportation costs can mean ridiculously higher prices.

In January 2012, President Obama announced the expansion of his tourism plan at Magic Kingdom when he said “with rapidly growing economies, huge populations and emerging middle classes, people from countries like Brazil and China like to visit the United States.” He added “Brazil was especially important for Florida because it has a huge population that loves to come to Florida … but we make it too hard for them. We want them spending money here, in Orlando, in Florida in the United States of America, which will boost our businesses and our economy.”

The problem he was alluding to was the long process that many Brazilians go through to get to the United States as on average, people have to wait 76 days just to get an interview at the largest U.S. consulate in Brazil, in Sao Paulo. With only four U.S. consular offices in a country that is bigger than the continental United States, a lot of Brazilians trying to visit the U.S. must travel long distances for their interview.

Mauro Vieira, Brazil’s ambassador to the United States, said “Florida is a very important state for Brazil.” Speaking at a recent Miami event, he addressed everything from the changing political landscape in Latin America and the need for economic reforms to trade and political issues that are driving the U.S.-Latin American relationship. Brazil, meanwhile, is Florida’s top trading partner with $19.6 billion in trade last year and the second largest source of international visitors. Visa-free travel between the United States and Brazil is now a top priority for the U.S. travel industry and hopes are now high that the first step in the process of getting a visa waiver program may be in setting up a Global Entry program between the two countries shortly.

As and when that happens, then things could really heat up. It’s going to be an interesting next few years. How’s your Portuguese?

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