MIAMI – Obrigado! That is Portuguese for “thank you,” and Florida’s real estate agents and retailers now know that linguistic fact extremely well. They’ve been saying it with great frequency.
Brazilians are pouring into the Sunshine State. And spending money. Big money. $1.6 Billion dollars in 2011. 600,000 Brazilians landed in Miami and Orlando last year, another straight year of double-digit growth. They are buying real estate—sometimes, not just 1 condo with a Biscayne Bay view, but an entire floor of a high-rise, condo tower. And at the shopping malls, the Brazilians are perfecting the phrase “shop ‘til you drop.”
Sergio Silva and his wife just returned to Brasilia with all kinds of consumer products. While they were in Miami Beach for a 3 day “shopcation” they and their—initially--6 empty suitcases were welcomed to Miami’s Dolphin Mall by an electronic sign which displayed a “welcome” in Portugese.
“I expect to spend something like $8,000,” said Silva. And, just like many an American husband at a mall, Silva looked exhausted. “Yes I am, but I have 2 more days, so I have to sleep well, and tomorrow, there is more shopping.
Things here are cheaper than in Brazil and if you pay to come here and stay here have some fun and do some shopping it's cheaper than to go to a shopping mall in Brazil and shop less than you can shop here,” said Silva.
Not only has Florida Governor Rick Scott noticed (he’s the first sitting Governor to visit Brazil at a travel show) so have the state’s economists and Congressional Delegation. Two bills working their way through committees in Congress would add Brazil to the current list of 36 countries which have ‘visa waiver’ status, meaning, you don’t need a visa to enter the US. As it is currently, the US State Department has 4 consulates in Brazil, the 5th largest country in the world in land mass, similar in size to the United States. For Brazilians who want to travel to the US—for business, tourism or shopping—the wait can be 100 days. If Congress adds Brazil (now the 6th largest economy in the world) to the Visa Waiver Program, President Obama has indicated he will sign it into law.
“Well, once again, it's pure and simple about jobs and the economy,” says William Talbert, President and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also chairs the US Travel Association’s Brazil Committee.
“Brazilians spend $5,000 when they visit Florida or the United States,” he says. “So you just multiply that by millions - potentially millions more Brazilians - that's more hotel sales, restaurant sales, and when you have sales that's about jobs. This is all about jobs.”
Saulo Ferraz is a Brazilian who now lives in Miami, an international city which thinks of itself as the de-facto capitol of Latin America. He’s also President of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in Florida, and says the state’s economy has been greatly helped out of the recession and slow job growth by the visiting, spending, Brazilians. If Brazil is still not on your radar, he says you need to add it.
“I think Brazil is, now, after the U.S., the main economy in the Americas,” says Ferraz. “Brazil , it's not--any more--only an exporter of agribusiness, agricultural products. It’s a real country, not only emerging, economically speaking, but also an economy that is growing with all kinds of industries, from jets, cars and also tourism. So it's a strong economy in a better shape compared to other years.”
Brazil is hosting the World Cup in 2014. And the Olympics in 2016. And it’s middle class is exploding in buying power.
The organized busloads of Brazilian shoppers hitting the shopping meccas of Miami-Dade, Broward and Orlando target the high-end stores: Prada, Coach, Michael Kors. Versace. Louis Vuitton. Victoria’s Secret.
Brazil is booming. Just ask Florida.
Phil Keating is national correspondent for Fox News Channel out of the Miami bureau.
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