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A Critique of Tourism Policy and Planning in Brazil Report

Executive Summary

This report traces its origin in the fact that the Brazilian tourism industry has evolved and witnessed significant changes in the formulation and implementation of tourism policies. Based on a periodic assessment of these policies, this report acknowledges that ineffective policies, lack of agency coordination, and authoritarian planning processes stifled the Brazilian tourism industry.

However, evidence shows that this trend has changed. The Brazilian tourism industry is now flourishing from a decentralised planning structure that effectively addresses local tourism issues. Current policy frameworks are also more inclusive and consultative.

This way, there is more stakeholder involvement in the planning process. This trend mirrors global dynamics in the tourism industry because many countries are democratising their policy development frameworks.

Eco-tourism and value addition needs are some tenets that Brazil’s policy frameworks share with the rest of the world. The country’s improved tourism status and the expanding contribution of the sector to the South American economy therefore prompt this paper to affirm that Brazil’s tourism planning and policy intervention processes have addressed the problems faced by the sector.


The Brazilian tourism sector is important to the economy of Brazil and other South American nations. The country receives more than 5,000,000 tourists annually (Blanke & Chiesa 2011). The high tourist numbers have elevated Brazil to the status of a top tourist destination, not only in Latin America, but also in the wider South American region.

Lohmann (2012) says Brazil is the second most desirable destination in South America and the third most visited destination in the wider Latin America tourism belt (only Argentina and Mexico surpass it in this regard). Based on these positive rankings, it is unsurprising for Lohmann (2012) to say the country receives more than US$5, 000,000 billion annually, from tourism.

The 2011 travel and tourism competitiveness index ranked Brazil the 52nd most competitive tourist destination in the world (Blanke & Chiesa 2011). This position elevated Brazil to be the third most competitive tourist destination in South America (only surpassed by Costa Rica and Mexico).

Brazil has a strong competitive edge because of its abundant natural resources. Its rich cultural heritage also supports the tourism market, as it attracts millions of tourists every year (Blanke & Chiesa 2011). The country is also home to different world heritage sites.

As described above, many analysts have identified natural resources and cultural enrichment as the main drivers for Brazil’s tourism industry. However, an understanding of the policy background that supports Brazil’s tourism sector is one issue that has consistently eluded the attention of most analysts.

This paper reviews Brazil’s tourism policy and planning processes by delving into the details surrounding the practices of inclusion, democratisation, and effectiveness of these plans. This paper also makes comparisons between the Brazilian tourism sector and other top tourist destinations around the world.

This paper also emphasises on understanding how the policy and planning formulation process compares to other parts of the world. The central question that emerges in this study is therefore to understand if Brazil’s tourism planning and policy interventions address the problems faced by the country’s tourism sector.

Distinctions between positive and negative appraisals of the existing policies form the background of this analysis.

Positive Appraisals

Emphasis on Tourism as a Social and Economic Development Tool

Throughout most parts of Brazil’s history, there was no proper planning of tourism policies. Most of the activities that occurred in the tourism sector were therefore fragmented and disorganised. OECD (2010) says that this situation led to the underutilisation of Brazil’s tourism potential.

Poor roads, airport facilities, and communication networks further worsened this problem because investors were displeased with Brazil’s unfavourable investment climate (OECD 2010). However, the Brazilian government started to play a proactive role, in the early nineties, to restore the sector by streamlining tourism policies.

This attempt birthed the Brazilian tourism ministry. Observers consider the creation of this ministry as the first bold attempt by the Brazilian government to elevate tourism as an important sector in Brazil’s economic and social space (Blanke & Chiesa 2011).

Decentralisation of Policy Initiatives

Brazil has witnessed significant changes in tourism policies. Most of these changes have occurred at a federal level. Some of the main achievements of these changes include increased innovation in the policy formulation process and increased growth in tourism development (Blanke & Chiesa 2011).

Before the onset of these changes, Brazil suffered from poor infrastructure, as the main impediment to the growth of the tourism industry (somewhat, this problem persists today). As a response to this challenge, the federal government created the program for tourism development of the Northeast (PRODETUR) (Araujo 2000).

Initially, the government mandated this body to promote tourism development in the Northeast region of the country. Its primary task was to develop basic infrastructure. PRODETUR aimed to do so by encouraging private-public partnerships.

Increased coordination between federal, state, and municipal levels also outline auxiliary strategies that the government has pursued to achieve the same purpose (Araujo 2000). Besides infrastructure development, PRODETUR helped to create strong institutional bodies that supported and financed tourism activities in the region.

Based on the successes of the agency, the Brazilian government expanded its mandate to other regions of Brazil (Blanke & Chiesa 2011).

The promotion of economic development was a key motivator for the Brazilian government to adopt a regional focus in tourism development because it wanted to reduce the country’s poverty levels through the creation of an economic buzz in the regional economies. So far, this initiative has been successful.

Addressing Regional Development Needs through Consultation

Although the introduction of regional-based tourism planning activities emerged from federal policies that promoted devolved policy governance structures, all beneficiaries of the regional programs were required to present concrete plans for tourism development, as a prerequisite for funding approvals.

The Brazilian government introduced this measure to ensure the validity of tourism development plans and uphold accountability through the planning process (Araujo 2000). However, Araujo (2000) argues that the main advantage for the pursuance of this approach is the increased consultations that this method introduced to the Brazilian tourism sector. Moreover, this strategy ensured the holistic development of tourism policies.

Before the development of this approach, Lohmann & Dredge (2012) says the development of tourism policies and government plans of the same industry mainly contained the hallmarks of desktop exercises. Furthermore, technocrats conducted the planning approach in a hierarchical manner (top-down).

Municipal and state agencies therefore rarely had the opportunity to contribute in the process. To strengthen the consultative approach of policy development in Brazil, agencies governing this process often comprise of representatives from civil society groups, environmentalists, businesspersons, and governments.

The creation of this conglomerate further strengthens the participative leadership strategy that characterises the policy formulation process in Brazil. Araujo (2000) also believes this leadership structure ensures a top-down governance structure is non-existent.

Evolution of Brazilian Tourism Policies

Globally, paradigm shifts in the tourism sector occur often. This trend denotes broader ideological shifts in social sciences. Drawing its inspiration from developments that have occurred in town planning, Lohmann & Dredge (2012) say the Brazilian tourism industry has evolved through three phases – classical planning stage, rational planning stage, and post-1980s paradigm stage.

The classical planning stage was characterised by many bureaucracies and blueprint plans. The rational planning stage eliminated this period and heralded a new stage where the Brazilian government identified pressing issues in the sector and looked for the best strategies to address them.

This stage also saw the introduction of alternative policies to address the pressing issues, thereby elevating government departments as absolute authorities in policy development and implementation (Blanke & Chiesa 2011).

The post 1980s paradigm characterises most of the policy progresses highlighted in this paper because it marks a period of intense consultation and participation during the policy formulation process. This period also marks an increased emphasis on the concept of sustainability and the importance of including the private sector in the formulation of strategic plans.

The above stages of policy changes in Brazil are similar to the increased dominance of neo-liberalism and globalisation in the 21st century. Lohmann & Dredge (2012) group these changes into one category of modern public management practices. This category includes an “emphasis on cost efficiencies, outsourcing, and the adoption of market mechanisms” (Lohmann & Dredge 2012, p. 19).

The same trend denotes political modernization and the adoption of global political trends, including “increased public participation, social inclusion, and increased private-public partnerships” (Lohmann & Dredge 2012, p. 20). The adoption of these global trends significantly changed how the Brazilian government (and governments in other developing nations) addressed tourism policies.


Poor Inter-Agency Coordination

A study conducted by Christina Rodrigues de Melo Orpheo and Morrow Gaines Campbell (cited in Tourism Watch 2013) evaluated the main reasons for the poor performance of Brazil’s tourism industry from the late eighties to 2006.

The paper highlighted three main issues as the main hindrances to the development of the country’s tourism sector – the lack of a clearly articulated national tourism policy, lack of skilled labour (poor service), and poor coordination among tourism agencies (Tourism Watch 2013).

These issues largely reflected the policy issues surrounding the industry because for a large developing country like Brazil, the existence of such challenges significantly dented the economic prospects of its struggling tourism industry.

Furthermore, the state, federal and municipal agencies, which were supposed to formulate policy remedies often worked against one another. Sometimes, by working independently, they competed against one another as well (Blanke & Chiesa 2011).

Failure to Include Local Communities

While recent policy interventions have addressed most of the criticisms levelled against the Brazilian tourism industry, Christina Rodrigues de Melo Orpheo and Morrow Gaines Campbell (cited in Tourism Watch 2013) say a review of its National Tourism Plan shows that current policies do not include measures for increased community participation.

For example, the 2008 Brazilian national tourism policy largely favours the regionalisation of tourism policies, but lacks guidelines for community participation. Similarly, the National Tourism Council (which is an active body in the formulation of national policies) lacks any notable community representatives on its board (Tourism Watch 2013).

This view departs from the belief that Brazil’s policy and planning processes are completely inclusive. A comparison of positive and negative appraisals regarding the inclusiveness of Brazil’s policy development and planning processes show that, while Brazil has achieved tremendous progress in this regard, it is yet to include community participation (fully) in the process.

Comparison to Global Practices

Globally, countries have strived to adopt best practices in the formulation of tourism policies. This trend especially manifests in the planning process because state and federal agencies have strived to revolutionise their planning processes to mirror best practices on the global front. Lohmann & Dredge (2012) believe Brazil is a classic example of the global push for the democratisation of tourism policies.

Social, political, and economic reforms that have occurred since the early 2000s have especially championed this change. These reforms have altered different aspects of the country’s governance structure, including the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of public policies affecting the tourism sector.

While this paper considers the creation of a specific tourism ministry as a bold attempt by the Brazilian government to elevate the tourism sector as a key pillar of social and economic development, it is also important to highlight that several countries around the world did the same.

For example, Blanke & Chiesa (2011) say most developing countries (including Brazil) introduced a new ministry of tourism “to develop the sector as a sustainable economic activity, focused on job creation, the generation of foreign exchange earnings, and the promotion of social inclusion” (p. 17).

The response of Brazil’s tourism policies to adopt eco-tourism and diversify its tourist markets came from a global realisation of the need to grow tourism demand and supply at the same time. For example, top tourist destinations in the Middle East have also embraced sustainable tourism as the new policy development framework for charting future developments in the Middle East.

Dubai is at the forefront of this push because it has cut out a niche for itself, in the Middle East, by adopting sustainable tourism practices. Most of its tourism policies and plans therefore have a strong emphasis on sustainability as a core tenet.

Dubai is not the only destination that has adopted this policy framework; South Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Caribbean countries are other top tourist destinations (in the developing world) that have embraced this model as well (Sustainable Tourism 2013).

Indeed, Blanke & Chiesa (2011) say, most tourist destinations around the world have witnessed an expansion and diversification of markets around the world. The exponential growth in eco-tourism provides a classic example of the global push towards adopting more eco-friendly tourism policies.

Particularly, this growth in eco-tourism numbers affirms the need for supply-based tourism policies, which hinge on the need for nurturing tourism markets in anticipation for a new breed of customers (eco-tourists). In this regard, public policies on tourism started to focus on how Brazil could improve the experiences of their tourists, including addressing issues, such as environmental quality and capacity limits.

Through such initiatives, the Brazilian government introduced proactive measures for adding value to the country’s tourism products, including making provisions for the environmental management of tourism. The introduction of these provisions has helped to merge tourism and environmental policies.

This association develops from the realisation that environmental policies support tourism growth and sustainability. Past policies never addressed the importance of environmental policies in tourism management.


After weighing the findings of this report, it is correct to say the onset of the 1990s marked the development of tourism policies and plans in Brazil. This period heralded a general shift in tourism policy paradigms in Brazil. A key paradigm shift that characterised this period was the creation of a new perception of tourism as a tool for social and economic development.

This period also marked the departure from the top-down governance structure that characterised the formulation of tourism policies in Brazil. Recent years have therefore seen a move towards a more local and regional focused governance structure.

Based on a comparison of Brazil’s policy planning process and the rest of the world, this change is part of a wider global push to adopt a bottom-up approach in policy development.

Evidence of the adoption of the same policy framework in the Middle East, Africa, and other top tourist destinations in South America therefore shows that the planning and policy formulation process of Brazil mirrors similar processes around the world.

Considering the milestones made by the reorientation of the policy framework, from a centralised approach to a decentralised one, it is fair to say current policies have largely addressed Brazil’s tourism needs. In fact, the decentralisation of the policy development process has largely contributed to the country’s stature as a top tourist destination in South America.

This stature was nonexistent in the early nineties and previous years. In detail, the new policy framework has helped to address local tourism needs and contributed to the overall development of regional economies.

Current legislations are therefore responsive to local needs and are more inclusive of important stakeholders in the sector. Thus, Brazil’s tourism planning and policy interventions have largely addressed the problems faced by the country’s tourism sector.


Araujo, L 2000, Stakeholder Participation in Regional Tourism Planning, Sheffield Hallam University, London, UK.

Blanke, J & Chiesa, T 2011, Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011, World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland.

Lohmann, G 2012, Tourism in Brazil: Environment, Management, and Segments, Routledge, London, UK.

Lohmann, G & Dredge, D 2012, Tourism in Brazil: Environment, Management and Segments, Routledge, London, UK.

OECD 2010, OECD Tourism Trends and Policies 2010, OECD Publishing, New York, NY.

Sustainable Tourism 2013, Sustaining Tourism: Case Studies, <>.

Tourism Watch 2013, Brazil’s National Tourism Plan. Web.

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