Although Brazilian tourism benefited from increased awareness underpinned by the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics, it is religious tourism that is paving the way for the country’s inbound tourism industry, it was revealed at WTM Latin America this week.
Alexis Frisk, research analyst for Euromonitor International, said at a press conference in Sao Paulo; “Religious heritage sites are important tourism destinations, attracting between 300-330 million tourists every year worldwide, according to UNWTO estimates.
“In Brazil, the Tourism Ministry estimates that 7.7m domestic trips were motivated by faith in 2014. This is the equivalent of Uruguay’s total domestic trips in 2012. Key destinations for religious include Juazeiro do Norte and Cachoeira Paulista.
Frisk continued: “In 2014, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida received 12m tourists, according the Sanctuary’s estimates. This is almost twice the number of visitors to the Eiffel Tower in 2013.”
The number of pilgrims that in 2011 visited Juazeiro do Norte, the base of priest and politician Padre Cícero located in the state of Ceará, is estimated at over 2.5m per year – more than Paraguay’s total number of domestic trips in 2014.
Frisk accounts this increase in religious interest to the election of a Latin American pontiff, Pope Francis, in 2013. According to Vatican figures, Brazil has the most Catholics in the world, with over 12% of the global Catholic population. This corresponds to 137m people, almost the population of Russia.
As such, travel companies have been expanding their offerings. Since 2012, the largest tour operator in Brazil, CVC, has been increased its portfolio of religious tourism packages. Specialised tour agencies offer tours for domestic sanctuaries, including Our Lady of Aparecida (Aparecida, São Paulo), Santa Paulina (Curitiba, Parana) and Pai Eterno (Trindade, Goiás).