The World Cup soccer tournament and the Olympic Games are the two biggest sporting events on the planet, and both are coming to Brazil in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Within the next 10 years, the country expects to see a 113% increase in international arrivals and 304% increase in foreign spending. In an effort to ramp up for these events, the federal government announced this year a master 5-year plan to pump $20 billion into infrastructure upgrades to build and/or modernize airports, ports, stadiums, public transportation and hotels. Private financing for additional developments will be many times that.
Presently, the ICCA ranks Brazil as the 7th most popular nation globally for large meetings and conventions—the highest outside North America and Europe. The bulk of those events occur in Sao Paulo, which has shot up the ICCA city standings from 80th place in 2003 to 18th today. Top rated, centrally located corporate hotels include the InterContinental Sao Paulo, Hilton Sao Paulo Morumbi, Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo and Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel.
The biggest development project in the country right now is the pending construction of a high-speed, $18.5 billion rail link connecting Sao Paulo with the prolific incentive destination, Rio de Janeiro. Upon completion in 2015, the bullet train will travel the 320 miles between the two airports in 97 minutes.
Rio is of course the cultural symbol of the nation for many foreign attendees, as well as a pre/post meeting juggernaut. Green improvements are a major focus with an over-riding goal to make the Rio Olympiad the first carbon-neutral Games. For example, the proposed Solar City Tower project is a self-powered offshore waterfall and group venue designed by the renowned Zurich firm RAFAA to symbolize Brazil’s coming of age.
Expect to also see significant upgrades to many 2nd tier cities across the country that cater to the group market.
“Right now there’s a lot of money being invested all around Brazil because the World Cup is going to be hosted in 12 different cities,” says Miguel Jeronimo, Director for East Coast USA of the Brazilian Tourist Board, EMBRATUR. “Starting later this year and into 2012, you can expect to see some of the infrastructure improvements, especially enhancements at the airports, new public parks and green landscaping, which is very important.”
World Cup destinations include Salvador da Bahia on the northeast coast, known as Brazil’s “Capital of Happiness” due to its endless beaches, laid back populace and infinite outdoor festivals. It is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, headlined by the 17th century World Heritage Site of Pelourinho.
In the north, Manaus sits at the headwaters of the Amazon Basin and the world’s most diverse eco/agri-tourism region. And in the interior, the capital city of Brasilia and major industrial hub of Belo Horizonte are gateways into “Deep Brazil,” highlighted by colonial Portuguese villages and native cuisine and culture.