By Jussara Goyano

Chinese people have already occupied the status of the greatest travelers on the planet, losing space, however, to Nordic nationalities. There were around 150 million tourists traveling the world annually, according to data released by the Instituto Sociocultural Brasil China. This is while Hong Kong frequently appears at the top of the list of most visited destinations, according to Euromonitor International. The city was first on the list in 2018, with around 30 million visitors, and occupied second place in 2023, with around 15 million tourists visiting. The financial contribution of the Chinese to international tourism also followed these positive rankings: spending on travel has already reached US$255 billion, representing the sector’s main revenue. Only the gap produced by the coronavirus pandemic was able to stop this exchange. The movement towards recovery in the pace of travel from China to the world and vice versa, however, is consistent.

In December, the general resumption of international tourism in China generated more than US$25 billion, with repercussions on the Chinese exchange rate, according to Chinese economic entities. Group travel, which filled Chinese planes heading abroad, was allowed last year, massively impacting total spending on international travel. This is in addition to the reduction of restrictions and requirements for Chinese tourists by several countries that still had their reservations.

In January 2023, 20 countries were released for group tourism, including locations in Latin America. In March last year, another batch, this one of 40 countries, included Brazil. It was only in August that Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia – destinations among the main destinations for individual and group travel by Chinese – were authorized by the Chinese government, in a new batch of releases. At the end of last year, the number of weekly flights to and from Chinese territory was already growing rapidly, although still below pre-Covid-19 levels.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced, in early 2024, that it plans to increase international flights per week from 4,600 to up to 6,000 weekly later this year. There are 20% fewer flights than recorded in the pre-pandemic period, despite the increase. The increase represents, however, around 30% more trips. The mobilization to reach pre-pandemic rates (and even surpass them) does not stop, and in this movement, Brazil is a promising destination.

Flights to Brazil – In March this year, with restrictions further relaxed by Chinese authorities and other countries, flights by Air China – the main operator on the route to Brazilian destinations – were resumed, including shorter trips between Beijing and São Paulo (SP). At this opportune moment, until the closing of this report, the Brazilian Agency for International Tourism Promotion (Embratur) reported an imminent block in the agenda of the entity’s president, Marcelo Freixo, for commitments with Chinese authorities in the sector and resumption of dialogue on Chinese tourism in Brazil.

Ties were not lost, not even during Covid-19 and can be strengthened: between 2019 and 2021, almost 80 thousand Chinese visited Brazilian destinations, according to the Ministry of Tourism (MTur). The volume can be resumed and even expanded, according to the Brazilian government. And the campaign to do so must have a specific focus.

The most common attractions for Chinese tourists are ecotourism, places where they can experience Brazilian culture and where there are business opportunities. More than 70% of Chinese visitors arrive in the country via this last attraction. The rest come to Brazil mostly for leisure, mainly to destinations such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Foz do Iguaçu, according to MTur. (In this last destination, the Chinese are among the 10 largest contingents of visitors. Foz is the only Brazilian and American city to take part in the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road cities.)

The development of the next agreements for Brazil-China tourism should probably follow the usual preference for destinations, but may also consider others: according to the consultancy DragonTrail International, due to the long distance between China and locations in Western Europe or the Americas, for For example, the chance of a Chinese tourist engaging in a travel package that includes visiting more than one country in these regions is greater than in those that cover a single destination. The information suggests that border routes with other South American countries, involving Mercosur agreements, are strong candidates to be part of the next negotiations with the Brazilian government.

Before the pandemic, Chinese people were also some of the main visitors to Amazonas (they were the 16th nationality on the list of international visitors to the state), suggesting that leisure travel in the region may have a special resumption plan. It is also necessary to consider the expansion of these routes to the so-called “Legal Amazon”, which comprises nine Brazilian states, also in border regions with other countries.

Other details of the Chinese tourist’s profile will probably also be taken into account. Some of these details are the age of the traveling public and their average ticket per trip. The millennial generation (15 to 35 years old) is the one that visits Brazil the most, spending almost R$10,000, on average, on their stay. While group travel supports the market, a larger movement of individual travelers may need to be considered.

National infrastructure – While new meetings with China do not take place, Embratur prepares the house. In January, the first notice of the International Tourism Acceleration Program (Pati) was launched, a federal government initiative that provides for public-private partnerships with airlines and airports to increase the number of seats and international flights to Brazil.

The resources come from the National Civil Aviation Fund (Fnac) in a partnership between the Ministries of Tourism and Ports and Airports, carried out by Marcelo Freixo. In the first phase, investments should total R$7 million, around 50% of which will be paid for with public funds.

Another initiative, this time only within the scope of the Ministry of Ports and Airports (MPor), brought together concessionaires that manage 99% of national airports. The objective was to call them to the responsibility they have in strengthening the country’s commercial aviation, with the expansion of regional and international routes, investments and improvements in concession terminals. The forecast is that these companies will invest more than R$20 billion for this purpose in the coming years.


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