Via Brazil: the inbound travel traffic jam

Last month the US announced with much fanfare an initiative to hasten the visa process for the burgeoning middle classes of China and Brazil. While both countries have seen increased outbound travel to the US it is, more often than not, despite the efforts of the US government and even private sector initiatives like US Travel and Brand USA

Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence gleaned by interacting with tourism professionals, particulalry journalists, in Sao Paulo and Rio reveals continuing frustrations at the many barriers thrown the way of the nearly 100 milion strong Brazilian middle class most of whom are well disposed to traveling to the US.

The common refrains include interminable waits for a visa interview (can be 2 1/2 months in Sao Paulo), long distances to one of five far flung consulates/embassy (the contrast with 9 consulates for France, a visa waiver country is telling) and the inability to transit via the US onward to other destinations.

The 2003 US decision to suspend (TWOV) Transit-Without-Visa indefinitely has proven to be a boon to Canada, Panama and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic resulting in lost revenue both from transit activity and potential visitors and spawned websites that cater to these transit points.

The supposed public-private initiatives manage to fall short despite increased resources. Fees from visa waiver countries along with funds from the private sector helped form the Corporation for Travel Promotion re-christened after a year as Brand USA. But the new sobriquet has done little to take in Brazil as its website for customers, Discover America , has no language options for either Portuguese or Chinese while having the old staple of Japanese, French, German and Spanish. US Travel, the travel industry's umbrella association has long pushed for visa free status for Brazil and Chile to no avail but here too international efforts seems sparse with representation only in 3 countries including Brazil but none in China.

Meanwhile, other developed countries like the UK, New Zealand the Schengen visa zone have all attempted to fill the gap by offering visa-on-arrival status for Brazilians.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.