Brazil may drop visas for US, Australia, Japan visitors

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Brazil is considering dropping visas for visitors from the US, Australia, Canada and Japan to boost its tourism industry, media reported Thursday.

Tourism Minister Alvaro Antonio told reporters the measure could be adopted soon, with the aim of tripling annual revenues from foreign tourists to $18 billion, the newspaper O Globo reported.

Currently Brazil applies reciprocal visa measures against countries.

That means visitors from the European Union and countries such as New Zealand can enter visa-free for short leisure or business trips.

But those from the US, Australia, Canada and Japan have to pay equivalent visa fees that those countries apply to Brazilians. In the case of Americans, for instance, the cheapest visitor visa is $44, while a visa valid over 10 years is $160.

But Antonio said that policy limited tourism from wealthy countries.

"These countries have low immigration risk, are good for tourists, good in spending and don't have consular problems. Our aim is to grow tourism and thereby create jobs and income for Brazil," he said.

Antonio said the plan was being weighed by his experts and the foreign ministry.

He also said he was in favor of making it easier for Chinese visitors.

Brazil, a vast country of lush nature, sprawling cities and an ethnically diverse population of 210 million, clearly has untapped tourist potential. At the moment it attracts some six million foreign visitors a year -- on par with Sweden or the Dominican Republic.

Its new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has made closer relations with the United States a priority, declaring himself a "friend" of America and an admirer of US President Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro has also pledged to tackle chronic crime in his country, which is one of the main concerns for tourists looking to visit Brazil.