Brazil and the Importance of Place

Brazil and the Importance of Place




This year Brazil was featured in two prizes at the World Responsible Tourism Awards presented at the World Travel Market 2013. They are a good indication of the complex country that Brazil is and the challenges and opportunities for sustainability in tourism and ecotourism.


The overall prize went to TUI Netherlands for their work against child sex tourism in Northeastern Brazil. Northeastern Brazil is famous for its great climate, wonderful beaches buffeted by warm waters and coral reefs. It is also historically a poorer area of Brazil.  So when charter flights poured in European tourists, looking for the 3 S's,  destination managers also discovered that all that tourism revenue came with some social costs. Realizing that child sex tourism is silently growing in the Northeast of Brazil, TUI Netherlands and its numerous partners launched a campaign to say "a collective 'NO' to child sex tourism in the Northeast of Brazil".


Often the rush to cash in on tourism comes with environmental costs as well. Too many destination stakeholders do not invest in planning the sustainability of their destination thereby shortening the destination lifecycle.


Which is why the story of Bonito destination is such an interesting example. Here action was taken before there was any tourism of note. Realizing the importance of their natural assets (crystal clear blue rivers full of fish, beautiful caves and forested mountains), the destination pioneers formed an environmental council  in 1986. In 11 a tourism council was formed which managed to introduce a key innovation, the voucher system.


An analysis of the World Economic Forum assessment of Brazil makes interesting reading as well. Brazil is ranked 51 (out of 140) with a score of 4.4. The overall score is similar to countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, South Africa and Thailand. But Brazil's score hasn't improved much since 2009 and  if you break down the score you find that the regulatory framework, business environment and infrastructure bog down the great potential of Brazil's natural and cultural resources. WEF ranks Brazil #1 for natural resources, but #129 for ground infrastructure and #119 for policy and regulations.


By celebrating the importance of place, the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference 2014 (ESTC14) from April 27-30, 2014 in Bonito, Brazil hopes to contribute to further the agenda of sustainability in tourism in Brazil and the inspire more destination stakeholders to invest in a quality ecotourism experience for their visitors.