Jan 8, 2012
Brazil tourists on spending spree
Jan 8, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO - Taking advantage of their country's booming economy and strong currency, Brazilian tourists went on a shopping spree abroad last year, spending more than $20 billion, notably in the United States and France.
Champs Elysées - Photo: Corbis
Brazil's central bank said the record foreign spending on jewelry, cosmetics, iPads, clothes, baby carriages and even homes, was up 22 percent over the figure for 2010.
Increased social mobility -- an estimated 30 million people have moved into the middle class over the past decade -- higher incomes, access to cheaper credit and low employment (5.2 percent in November), mean a growing number of Brazilians now travel and splurge abroad.
Their favorite destinations are Miami, New York, Buenos Aires and Paris, according to Jose Francisco Salles Lopes, a senior official at the tourism ministry.
In 2010, 1.1 million Brazilians traveled to the United States, 870,000 to Argentina and 384,000 to France, with other big contingents heading to Portugal, Italy and Spain.
In the United States, they were the foreign group that spent the most per capita in 2010, $5.9 billion or nearly $5,000 per person.
"Brazilians spend all they have. If they have $5,000, they spend $5,000," said Salles.
Sydney, a 47-year-old Rio pediatrician who would not give his surname for fear of having problems with customs, travels to the United States twice a year.
He told AFP he had returned from Boston this week, where he collected more than 40 boxes of Internet purchases sent to his hotel by his 14-year-old daughter.
"Two iPods, one computer, brand clothes and tennis shoes, two cameras. The ease of this type of buying, the security, the quality, the prices, you can't beat that. In Brazil, everything costs twice or three times as much," he said.
With high taxes, high inflation running at 6.6 percent and the nearly 40 percent appreciation of the Brazilian real against the dollar, Brazil is now an expensive country.
Sydney also traveled to Fort Lauderdale in Florida last year and visited a shopping mall mobbed by Brazilians.
"I was ashamed to say I was Brazilian, my compatriots were buying everywhere, trying Armani shirts and shouting: 'I don't care about the size or color, give me three!'."
Pregnant Brazilian women flock to the United States to buy layette sets -- a suit of clothes -- for newborns. Carlos Eduardo, a Rio company manager whose wife is expecting a boy in May, spent Christmas in Orlando, Florida shopping for the baby.
"From baby clothes for up to two years old to diaper rash cream (and) ... all for a third or a fourth of what I would pay here," he crowed.
Each Brazilian can bring back from abroad up to $500 dollars worth of merchandise without paying tax.
Skyrocketing real estate prices in Brazil have also led many Brazilians to buy upscale condominiums in Miami, according to local property agencies.
Last year, applications for US visas shot up 40 percent and Washington announced that it will double the number of consular officials in Brazil to speed up the procedure, which currently takes 50 days.
The US trade and tourism industry is meanwhile lobbying Congress to grant Brazilians visa-free entry.
"This is the dream of Brazilians and today it's the Americans who are pushing for it. They see the Brazilian as a quality tourist," said Salles.
And then there is Paris, for which the Brazilian elite has always had a soft spot. Many wealthy Brazilians own a second residence there and when you step into a Rio bookstore you find entire shelves devoted to the French capital.
"Paris is the most sold city when travel involves Europe," said Pablo Resende Torres, an official at CVC, Brazil's leading tour operator, which offers a coveted "Paris for Brazilians" tour.
"Today it's a fever. The French are rolling out the red carpet for Brazilians," according to Salles.
Brazilians are the second largest foreign contingent, behind the Americans, to visit the Louvre museum, official figures show.
"Brazilians go to Miami to buy home appliances but in Europe they buy brand names," Rejan Bruni, a 53-year-old biologist just back from Europe, told AFP.
"There were entire lines of Brazilians waiting to buy Louis Vuitton," she said.
by Laura Bonilla
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