Beautiful Brazil

When we think of Brazil, the images that come to mind are probably those of Rio de Janeiro, its smiling, sexy Carioca residents, its curve of white sands, its sky-high landmarks of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains, its stores full of sparkling native gemstones, and its swinging nightlife. Surely when Brazil captured this year’s Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in Latin America, Rio was top in everyone’s mind. However, today’s travelers are also finding that the roads to romance lead to many spectacular and special corners of Brazil offering new comforts and luxury in boutique pousada hotels in colonial cities, in sybaritic seaside resorts along the northeast coast, and in eco-lodges where the wild things are in Amazonia.

Miguel Jeronimo, who heads the Brazilian Tourism Office in New York is, of course, delighted with, but perhaps not surprised that, Brazil is the readers’ pick for romance. He feels that, “Brazil’s romantic spots can go toe-to-toe with most honeymoon getaways worldwide, although the magnet is certainly beautiful Rio whose lifestyle is all about having round-the-clock fun.”

Over the next decade, Brazil will be promoting a new breed of romantic traveler: the sports lover. Jeronimo reports that, “From 2011 on, our marketing efforts will focus on the 12 cities that will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.” Under the promotion umbrella, “Brazil is Calling You,” the U.S. market will be introduced or re-introduced to these dozen host cities:

In the Southeast region—Rio de Janeiro, a.k.a. cidade marvilhosa and recently named to the New Seven Wonders of the Word list; Sao Paulo, the biggest South American city, in fact Brazil’s “Big Apple”; Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state and gateway to the “Cities of Gold.”

In the South region—Porto Alegre, a port city lying at the confluence of five rivers; Curitiba, with one of the world’s highest densities of urban green spaces, often called the “environmental capital” of Brazil.

In the Central region—Brasilia, celebrating 50 years as the modern capital of Brazil; Cuiaba, capital of Mato Grosso and northern gateway to the wildlife-rich Pantanal wetlands.

In the Northeast region—Salvador, the spiritual heart of Brazil’s Afro-Brazilian culture; Recife, a leader in healthcare, design and gastronomy, whose beachside neighbor Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage site; Natal, heralded for its beaches such as nearby Ponta Negra; Fortaleza, Brazil’s fifth largest city and jumping-off point for some spectacular beaches, dining and idyllic coastal towns.

In the North region—Manaus, riverside gateway to the Amazon rainforest.

In getting ready for World Cup and Olympics arrivals, hundreds of infrastructure projects are underway, including a high-speed rail line linking Sao Paulo and Rio. By the time the opening whistle blows for the World Cup matches, new hotels—led by international hotel chains—will have changed the accommodations profile of the country. And already helping to put Brazil more solidly in the mainstream for U.S. travelers is the phenomenal boom in air services between the two countries. Eight airlines now operate flights from 12 U.S. gateways to seven cities in Brazil. November alone was a big month for startup services: American Airlines debuted the only nonstop flights between New York and Rio, as well as nonstop service from Miami to Brasilia. And Delta Air Lines opened the first-ever air connection between Detroit and Sao Paulo.

In the New Year, Brazil will continue sponsoring travel industry educational workshops in cooperation with Brazil Tour Operators Association (BTOA).