Brazil's natural wonders include the Amazon; the wildlife-packed Pantanal wetlands; 8,850 kilometers of superb Atlantic coastline, including 3,200 kilometers of white sand beaches in the Northeast running from São Luís in the north to the Bahia Basin in the south; and the waterfalls at Foz do Iguaçu. Brazil has one of the world's most spectacularly located cities, Rio de Janeiro, which hosts the annual Mardi Gras Carnaval (Carnival); one of the largest cities, São Paulo; one of the most modernistic, Brasília; and one of the most ecologically advanced, Curitiba. Other popular cities include Salvador, Ouro Prêto, and Manaus.
Traditionally, Brazilian politicians have regarded travel and tourism as elitist and an unnecessary luxury. This view has been changing, however, as politicians have begun to see travel and tourism as a major industry. In the early 1990s, about 6 million jobs were linked to Brazil's travel and tourism industry. The industry is one of the country's biggest employers, involving one in every eleven workers. It contributes an estimated 8 percent to the country's GDP. This figure compares favorably with Latin America's average of 5.1 percent, but it is well below the world average of 10.2 percent.
Since the United Nations-sponsored Rio Earth Summit (Eco-92) in 1992, the Brazilian government has targeted ecotourism as a priority. For example, the government is encouraging foreign investment in tourist facilities in Amazônia. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism includes a cabinet-level official in charge of tourism policies. The National Secretary of Tourism and Services, the National Tourism Board, and the state and municipal tourist authorities are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the sector.
The development of tourism in the seven states that make up the impoverished Northeast has received special attention. More than 3 million Brazilian and foreign visitors boosted hotel occupancy in the Northeastern states from 43 percent in 1991 to 67 percent in 1993.
In 1992 some 2,235,000 passengers flew to Brazil, an increase of 14.5 percent from 1991, and the same number flew out of Brazil. About 513,000 of these visitors flew between Argentina and Brazil, and according to Brazil's Civil Aviation Department (Departamento de Aviação Civil--DAC), more than 541,000 passengers flew between the United States and Brazil, an increase of 10.4 percent from 1991. The Brazilian Tourism Agency (Empresa Brasileira de Turismo--Embratur) found that 72.6 percent of those who came to Brazil in 1992 came for tourism; the rest came for business, conferences, and conventions, including Eco-92. In 1993 about 1.6 million foreign visitors traveled to Brazil.
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